Troy Parrott saw red last night against Italy but Ireland’s U21s remain on a green light towards a first Euro appearance.
This stalemate against the top seeds maintains an unbeaten start for Stephen Kenny’s side, who stay top of their group heading into Tuesday’s visit to Iceland.
They might even have grabbed a memorable win late on against the pool’s top seeds when captain Jayson Molumby saw his free-kick turned over.
Parrott had been dismissed on 63 minutes for a second yellow card in an incident that saw Moise Kean issued with a straight red card.
Left-winger Gianluca Scamacca fashioned the first chance for the visitors when he cut inside after only six minutes but couldn’t keep his shot down.
Parrott, switched from his usual central berth to the left wing role vacated by Aaron Connolly, dropped back to stem the flow and got a booking for his troubles on 12 minutes. While the sound of his 50/50 challenge on Tonali pierced the Tallaght air, it seemed fair but not in the eyes of referee Sascha Stegemann.
The German official issued a booking, one that would prove costly later on.
Scamacca, the Sassuolo winger on loan to Ascoli, whipped the resulting 25-yard free around the wall but wide of Caoimhin Kelleher’s left post.
The five-time champions were gaining a foothold and almost snatched the lead on 17 minutes. Left-back Luca Pellegrini had dropped down from the senior squad and his habit of roaming from defence into attack was troubling Ireland.
From one such foray, Pellegrini’s lofted cross allowed Pinamonti cut across Dara O’Shea to connect with a header. Kelleher was left static on his line as the effort skewed marginally the wrong side of the post.
With that scare survived, Ireland began to get a grip in key areas. Two minutes later, a long punt by Kelleher minutes set Idah off on a run at goal. Despite getting the ball caught under his feet, he managed to lay the ball off to Jayson Molumby who had Parrott for support. The Tottenham forward had to turn to get his shot away but still managed to force Marco Carnesecchi into a low save.
Six minutes later, the Italian goalkeeper was again worked as the record crowd of 7,231 began to find their voice on a chilly night.
A flowing move from left to right saw Molumby find Ihah with his back to goal and he, in turn, fed the unmarked Ronan. His rasping shot from just outside of the box was spilled by Carnesecchi, forcing Alessandro Bastoni to clear the loose ball with Parrott poised to convert the rebound.
At the other end, Davide Frattesi should have done better with an opportunity which he smashed over from 10 yards but the remainder of the half descended into a scrappy affair. A skirmish following a disputed hopball led to three bookings, two of them for Ireland’s Molumby and Ronan.
Not content with the pattern of the opening 45 minutes, Italy took drastic action by introducing €60m worth of talent in Kean and Wolves forward Patrick Cutrone at the interval. The Everton’s man wayward first touch was greeted by jeers from the home crowd.
Between the power of Kean and intricacy of Cutrone, the Azzurri attack showed a different complexion without a different outcome.
Conor Masterson and O’Shea, who’ve marshalled a defence with just one goal conceded in their opening four qualifiers, held firm, resisting the temptation to stick out a stray leg under pressure in the box.
Indeed, Parrott came closest to breaking the deadlock with a 52nd-minute strike on the turn which fizzed a yard wide.
Then came the game’s flashpoint on 63 minutes. After Kean fouled Conor Coventry in the centre circle, Parrott went to retrieve the loose ball, much to the substitute’s annoyance.
Both had a shove at each other, Parrott left clutching his mouth as a result and eventually falling to the ground. Stegemann didn’t waste much time in brandishing cards to each.
Ireland finished stronger, with the Italians failing to trouble Kelleher. Molumby was almost the match-winner with six minutes left but his thunderous free-kick was denied by Carnesecchi’s tip over.
C Kelleher; L O’Connor, D O’Shea, C Masterson, L Scales; J Molumby (G Kilkenny 85), C Coventry; Z Elbouzedi (M Obafemi 68), C Ronan (J Knight 62), T Parrott; A Idah.
M Carnesecchi; E Delprato, A Bastoni, R Marchizza (C Adjapong 22), L Pellegrini; M Locatelli, M Carraro (R Sottil 68), S Tonali; D Frattesi, A Pinamonti, G Scamacca; D Frattesi, A Pinamonti (P Cutrone 46), G Scamacca (M Kean 46).
Sascha Stegemann (GER)