Uefa U21 European Championship qualifier
Ireland 1 Kosovo 0
Ireland U21s will hope Saturday’s stuttering start to their European qualifiers was just a case of opening night nerves.
Kosovo, playing their first ever competitive game at this level, were worthy of at least a draw at Tallaght Stadium given they rattled the post of Ireland goalkeeper Kieran O’Hara twice in the final half hour.
Noel King’s Irish side were playing for the first time together and it showed as their passing was slack and defending suspect at times.
Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane were amongst the sparse attendance and, apart from match-winner Olamide Shodipo, few prospects would have impressed the senior managerial duo.
The Dublin-born QPR winger, currently on loan at Port Vale, bundled the ball over the line from close range 11 minutes into the second half after Sean Donnellan and Harry Charsley had tested goalkeeper Visar Bekaj from a corner.
Donnellan partnered Ryan Sweeney in a new-look central defensive partnership and he needed to scamper back eight minutes from the end to clear the ball after Mendurim Hoti’s volley had beaten O’Hara only to strike the inside of the post.
Hoti had earlier almost brought Kosovo level within two minutes of Shodipo’s breakthrough goal, yet his rasping low show was also denied by the upright.
“I thought it was a bit of a scrappy game,” admitted Sweeney, who is on loan at Bristol Rovers from Stoke City.
“Kosovo made it difficult for us but, in fairness, these are the games you have to grind down and get the three points. It’s a new group of players and we only had our first training games together in November.
“On that trip to La Manga, we had time to gel and we came in in the early part of the week to train.
“I think that’s normal when you haven’t seen each other in a couple of months.”
IRELAND: O’Hara (Manchester United); Whelan (Liverpool), Sweeney (Bristol Rovers), Donnellan (Dagenham), Kane (Huddersfield Town); Dimaio (Chesterfield), Cullen (Bradford); Charsley (Everton), Manning (QPR), Shodipo (Port Vale); Curtis (Derry City).
Sub: Grego-Cox (QPR) for Manning (66 mins).
KOSOVO: Beka; Tejeci, Statovci, Kabashi, Hasani; Broja, Maloku; Gashi, M Hoti, E Hoti; Pilana.
Subs: Dabiqaj for E Hoti (53 mins), Ajzeri for Pilana (68 mins)
Referee: P Kjaesgaard-Andersen (DEN)
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