Manning on the double for King's youngsters
Ireland U21 - 3 Azerbaijan U21 - 1
The Republic of Ireland maintained their winning start to the UEFA U21 Championships Qualifying Round Group 5 with a 3-1 win over Azerbaijan at Dalga Stadium, Baku yesterday.
An impressive performance was capped by two first-half goals from QPR's Ryan Manning and a second-half finish from his club-mate, Reece Greco-Cox.
The Irish got off to a dream start when Manning scored with a low strike which the keeper spilled after good play on the left by Ronan Curtis in the ninth minute.
Unfortunately the Irish were caught cold when Azerbaijan equalised in the 12th minute when senior international Mahir Madatov ran from his own half and slotted under the advancing Kieran O'Hara.
Madatov showed his threat once again in the 20th minute with a shot from 25 yards out which was well held by O'Hara.
The Azeris pushed to take control of the game and a long distance shot by Gismat Aliyev forced O'Hara to scamper back and tip the ball over his crossbar in the 22nd minute.
As the Irish began to adjust to the heat they regained control and took the lead once more in the 39th minute when brilliant play by Greco-Cox down the right saw him carve out a great cross and Manning arrived on cue to head home.
Five minutes into the second half Grego-Cox steered the ball home from close range after keeper Mustafa Kemal Ozhitay spilled a low strike from a Manning free-kick.
The Azeris had a man sent off in the 62nd minute when Elnur Jafarov was booked for the second time for a reckless challenge on Danny Kane. Jafarov has been booked for simulation in the first half.
Manning produced a thumping effort that hit the back stanchion of the Azeri goal in the 75th minute as Ireland pressed to add to their tally.
Josh Cullen fired narrowly wide deep into injury-time after good hold up play by Joe Quigley and the final whistle blew moments later as the Irish secured an impressive three points.
They will meet Norway at Tallaght Stadium on October 5 and then host Israel four days later. Ireland beat Kosovo in their opening game in March.
Speaking after the win, manager Noel King was pleased with what he saw.
"We got a performance and it was player-driven, which is very important. It was a difficult situation to be in, particularly with so long spent travelling to get here and acclimatise.
"The players adapted to the situation - they bought into what we did here this week and they really wanted to back up their result against Kosovo."