Republic of Ireland U21 0 Portugal U21 2
The Republic of Ireland’s Under-21 side suffered a comprehensive defeat by an impressive Portuguese side in their opening UEFA Under-21 Championships qualifier in Cork tonight.
A first-half goal from Paulo Machado and a second-half strike by Sporting Lisbon midfielder Miguel Veloso ensured Portugal the three points.
The result leaves Don Givens’ Irish youngsters already facing an uphill battle for qualification.
England’s 3-0 win over Montenegro in the other game in the group has created a difficult path to the finals in Sweden for the Irish already.
Portugal took the lead with their first attack in the fourth minute when Joao Moreira sent over a right-wing cross and Leixoes winger Machado connected to knock home from six yards out.
Home goalkeeper Darren Randolph produced a string of impressive saves to keep his side’s hopes alive.
His first stop of note was to keep out a well struck free-kick by Veloso in the 15th minute.
Chances were at a premium for the Irish but Adam Rooney was unlucky to get the ball caught between his feet in the 27th minute after good work from Billy Clarke.
Charlton keeper Randolph then did well to push away another strike by Veloso in the 38th minute.
Just 60 seconds later he saved Ireland again, pushing away a powerful strike by Vieirinha.
Four minutes into the second half Machado brought another save out of the Irish keeper with a low strike from the left.
Veloso finally found a way past Randolph from the edge of the box in the 54th minute after a cutback by Moreira.
Randolph made another excellent save to keep out a 35-yard rocket from Manuel da Costa four minutes later.
Ireland ended the game on better form with Ipswich Town midfielder Owen Garvan making his mark as a substitute.
In the 67th minute Garvan brought a save out of Ricardo Batista with a well struck effort from 25 yards.
Batista then denied another substitute Michael Collins with his feet in the 71st minute after Rooney created the chance.
Aston Villa defender Stephen O’Halloran had an injury-time attempt saved but there was little doubt which side deserved the three points.