Kenny’s joy as Ireland blast out of blocks

Stephen Kenny hailed his Ireland U21 side’s quickfire start in yesterday’s demolition of China.

Kenny’s joy as Ireland blast out of blocks

[team1]Ireland U21[/team1][score1]4[/score1][team2]China U23[/team2][score2]1[/score2][/score]

Stephen Kenny hailed his Ireland U21 side’s quickfire start in yesterday’s demolition of China.

After strolling past Luxembourg 3-0 in his first game of his tenure in March, Kenny’s cubs maintained the swashbuckling style in their first match at the Toulon Tournament.

To dominate an older China side managed by Dutch legend Guus Hiddink was particularly pleasing for the ex-Dundalk boss.

Zack Elbouzedi fired Ireland ahead at the French tournament after just 33 seconds, swiftly followed a second from Aaron Connolly’s four minutes later.

China briefly threatened a comeback by reducing the deficit through Yang Li’s 18th minute header but a pair of second-half penalties from Adam Idah completed another resounding victory.

Up next for Ireland is last year’s runners-up, Mexico, on Thursday night followed by the concluding Group C match against Bahrain on Sunday.

“I was delighted with the overall performance,” admitted Kenny, due to succeed Mick McCarthy in the senior post next year.

“China’s first touch of the game was the tip-off after our opener.

“We had practised how we played from the kick-off but not exactly the move that led to Zack’s goal.

“People might associate China with technical style but they’re a strong physical team that are dangerous from set-pieces.

“It was disappointing to concede one from a corner-kick but it was a very pleasing display from all the players. I couldn’t fault any of them.”

Brighton and Hove Albion attacker Connolly was the only change to the side so impressive in Kenny’s first game.

He was straight into the action, racing to the end-line inside the first minute and his cut-back allowed Elbouzedi to side-foot a first-time shot from ten yards in off the underside of the crossbar.

Connolly’s volleyed finish had Ireland in cruise control until Yang Li punished slack marking by heading in to make it 2-1.

The next goal was going to be vital and both sides went close to nicking it before the break.

Firstly, Dara O’Shea wriggled free to meet Ronan’s corner, yet his goalbound header was nodded over his crossbar by Jiabao Wen.

Picture: Sportsfile
Picture: Sportsfile

China, too, wasted a glorious chance to level.

Ireland were caught on the counter-attack, conceding space for Huanhuan Shan to sprint clear behind their defence.

Kelleher showed his reflexes by sticking out a leg to deny the Vitoria Guimaraes striker.

It would prove a vital intervention as Ireland went on to underline their dominance with two more goals in the second half.

Idah grabbed both, each from the penalties given for handballs.

He made it 3-1 on 56 minutes after Elbouzedi’s cross struck the arm of Li, presenting the Norwich forward the opportunity to stroke the ball beyond Wei Chen.

Idah stuck to the same approach eight minutes from full-time when Jing Guo handled a shot from substitute Jason Knight.

The Cork native left the goalkeeper static when side-footing the spot-kick into the bottom right corner.

“I had a few selection dilemmas but they paid off,” said Kenny in relation to giving Connolly his first U21 start.

“Hopefully, we can keep the performance levels going over the rest of the tournament.”

IRELAND:

C Kelleher (Liverpool); L O’Connor (Manchester United), D O’Shea (West Brom), C Masterson (Liverpool), D Leahy (Bohemians); J Molumby (Brighton & Hove Albion), C Coventry (West Ham United); Z Elbouzedi (Waterford), C Ronan (Wolves), A Connolly (Brighton & Hove Albion); A Idah (Norwich City).

Subs:

J Knight (Derby County) for Ronan (63), S Power (Norwich City) for Connolly (77), A Drinan (Waterford) for Idah (83), J Taylor (Barnet) for Molumby (86).

CHINA:

Q Guo; L Tong, Y Li, W Wu, J Wen (Jing Guo 70); B Chen, D Yao, C Huang, W Lei (Hui Cheng 80); L Lin, H Shan.

Referee:

M Carvalho Nobre (POR).

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