Norway 4 Ireland 1
Under-21 international friendly
By John Fallon
Ireland’s Under-21 rookies were taught a lesson by a rampant Norway side in this evening’s friendly.
Despite creating the better chances early on, Noel King’s side never recovered from conceding the opener on 28 minutes and found themselves four behind even before the hour mark was reached.
Norway’s senior international Mohammed Elyounoussi inflicted the first-half damage on the Irish with a brace, while substitutes Petter Strand and Kristoffer-Normann Hansen added two more in the space of four minutes after the break to compound Ireland’s woe.
On the positive side, King handed debuts to seven newcomers, including Alan Browne, who grabbed a consolation from the penalty spot with 14 minutes remaining.
With their next Euro qualification not due to start until the middle of next year, the Irish will look to put this set-back behind them when they take on Russia and USA next month.
The Irish adapted well to the artificial surface at the Marienlyst Stadium, controlling possession for the majority of the opening half hour.
They fashioned a couple of chances too, in particular a 25-yard shot from Jack Byrne that curled just a yard over.
His Manchester City clubmate Ian Lawlor had the other end was relatively untroubled until the breakthrough arrived. Molde first-teamer Elyounoussi raced into the box untracked, skipped past captain Tommie Hoban and stroked a low effort into the bottom corner from eight yards.
Ireland fell further into arrears six minutes after they were exposed down the left flank. When Bard Finne connected with the cross, Lawlor produced a superb block but there was no preventing Veton Berisha’s thunderous effort on the rebound rattling the net.
King introduced four substitutes at the break to add some vitality but defensive lapses proved costly. Firstly, on 53 minutes, Ireland’s failure to clear twice allowed Strand to tap home from close-range.
Four minutes later and Hoban’s attempt to play out from back was clinically punished by Hansen who managed to angle his 30-yard exorcist beyond the retreating Lawlor.
Still, Ireland kept to their passing game and eventually gained a reward when Philip Roberts was dragged back by Vegard Amundsen Bergan just as he was poised to convert Kenny McEvoy’s right-wing cross. Up stepped Preston regular Browne to tuck the spot-kick low to the right of goalkeeper Pal Vestly Heigre.
NORWAY: M Dyngeland; K Haraldseid, M Hoibraten, J Gronner, T Grogaard; K Skaanes, M Ovenstad, I Fossum, M Elyounoussi; V Berisha, B Finne.
IRELAND: I Lawlor (Manchester City); S Long (Reading), E O’Connell (Celtic), T Hoban (Watford), S Griffin (Reading); D Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers), P Sweeney (Reading); K Sadlier (West Ham Utd), J Byrne (Manchester City), J Connors (Dagenham & Redbridge); S Byrne (Everton).
Subs: S Kavanagh (Fulham) for Connors, Watkins-Clark (Stoke City) for Sadlier, A Browne (Preston NE) for Sweeney, K McEvoy (Peterborough Utd) for Lenihan (all 46 mins), D Rogers (Dunbarton) for Lawlor, P Roberts (Dundee) for Byrne, D Connolly (Shelbourne) for Griffin (all 68 mins).
Ref: Jari Jarvinen (FNL)