Troy Parrott’s hype machine is cranking into overdrive after he spearheaded a stellar comeback victory in Sweden last night.
Ireland’s win over the second seeds in soggy Kalmar not only heightens the prospect of reaching a first-ever tournament at this level but loudens the calls for Parrott’s elevation to the seniors.
Stephen Kenny is delighted to have the Tottenham forward, even if he used him last night in the role of impact substitute. Behind 1-0 at the break, Ireland dominated the second half, helped by Parrott’s introduction six minutes after the restart.
Despite Aaron Connolly missing a penalty, the substitute bagged a goal either side of Conor Masterson’s header.
“Troy showed tremendous character tonight,” said future senior boss Kenny afterwards.
“He played so well on his debut against Armenia last Friday but there was a tactical reshuffle to cope with Sweden’s midfield. We couldn’t start with four strikers against such a talented Swedish team.
“We knew that a strong finish would be needed. If we controlled midfield, we could spring the forwards and finish strongly. Troy, for a 17-year-old, brilliantly finished off the two chances.”
Victory keeps Ireland top of their group with top seeds Italy next up at Tallaght next October 10.
Sweden survived an early scare when Aaron Connolly cut in from the left and curled his low shot just past the far post of Pontus Dahlberg. The Watford goalkeeper was kept busy by the Irish but only after the hosts made use of a purple patch to forge ahead on 19 minutes.
Bologna midfielder Mattias Svanberg finished off a flowing move with a first-time 35-yard rocket which found the top corner.
When Danny Mandroiu left the pitch clutching his hip six minutes into the second half, Kenny introduced Parrott. He was requesting the ball on 64 minutes when Connolly was tripped inside the box by Svanberg. But the creator of the penalty got to take it, yet saw Dahlberg fling himself the right way and finger-tip the effort away.
Ireland were level four minutes later. Parrott was perfectly-placed to find the root of the net with a first-time striker after Jonathan Afolabi’s left-wing cross was only half-cleared.
It was all Ireland at this stage and captain Jayson Molumby squandered a close-range effort by heading wide.
Masterson, on his 21st birthday, showed him the way by evading his marker to make it 2-1 with a header on 86 minutes.
Parrott added the third on the break in stoppage-time, finishing off a slick counter-attack by dinking the ball over Dahlberg after his initial effort came back off a defender.
“When we lost our way for a 15-minute period in the first-half, Sweden played well and capitalised with the opener,” said Kenny.
“There’s no question that we deserved the victory. We could have won it by any amount.”
SWEDEN: P Dahlberg; F Beijmo, F Hadzikadunic, H Andersson, T Isherwood (JF Cajuste 62); D Kulusekvski, S Ingelsson (B Hussein 81), M Svanberg, E Hansson (J Larsson 62); B Mbungu-Kimpioka (V Gyokeres 67), D Irandust (N Froling 81).
IRELAND: C Kelleher (Liverpool); L O’Connor (Celtic), D O’Shea (West Brom), C Masterson (QPR), D Leahy (Bohemians); J Molumby (Millwall), C Coventry (West Ham United); Z Elbouzedi (Waterford), D Mandroiu (Bohemians), A Connolly (Brighton and Hove Albion); J Afolabi (Celtic).
Subs: T Parrott (Tottenham Hotspur) for Mandroiu (51), G Kilkenny (Bournemouth) for Elbouzedi (73), A Idah (Norwich City) for Afolabi (82).
Ref: Rade Obrenovic (SVN).