Late goal earns draw for Ireland U-21s

Poland Under-21s 2 Republic of Ireland Under-21s 2

Poland Under-21s 2 Republic of Ireland Under-21s 2

Blackburn defender John Fitzgerald scored a 90th-minute equaliser as Ireland’s under-21s came from two goals down against Poland to extend their unbeaten run to 10 matches.

Ireland’s nine-match unbeaten looked in danger after twin brothers Pawel and Piotr Brozek scored a goal each for Poland. But Manchester City striker Stephen Elliott pulled one back in the 63rd minute, before Fitzgerald was the last-gasp hero.

The Poles – who are in England’s World Cup qualifying group – had been hoping for revenge after crashing 5-1 to the Irish last August.

In a match watched by England Under-21s coach David Platt, Pawel Brozek struck first for the hosts after 21 minutes. He then set up his brother Piotr for what seemed to be the killer second goal eight minutes after the break.

Ireland eventually were not to be denied. But their one disappointment was that Scarborough left-back Stephen Capper was forced out of the action after 18 minutes with a hand injury.

Ireland fell behind when Poland captain Antoni Lukasiewicz’s long ball over the top into the left channel was taken down nicely by Pawel Brozek, who held off debutant Paddy McCarthy before slotting the ball through Wayne Henderson’s legs at the near post.

Ireland came close to equalising after 32 minutes when the Polish goalkeeper dropped a deep cross. Sunderland’s Sean Thornton pounced, but his shot was cleared off the line by Lukasiewicz.

Poland scored again after 53 minutes, and this time it was Piotr Brozek who was celebrating. Piotr played a one-two with Pawel Brozek and slotted the ball past Henderson.

After 66 minutes, Henderson prevented Ireland from falling further behind with a fine block to deny substitute Pawel Mielniczek – and that proved a turning point as the visitors went straight up field and pulled a goal back.

It was Elliott – scorer of a hat-trick in the wide-margin win in Gdansk last time – who coolly slipped past the goalkeeper and slotted the ball home from the right edge of the box.

Ireland never gave up and eventually grabbed their equaliser.

Thornton floated in a deep free-kick to the left-hand post. Fitzgerald headed the ball down, and Elliott’s shot was blocked by the goalkeeper. But Blackburn’s Fitzgerald rifled home the rebound.

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