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Wednesday 20 November 2019

Frustrated Kenny says Iceland match became a 'farce'

Euro U-21 qualifier: Iceland 1 Rep Of Ireland 0

U-21 captain Jayson Molumby is restrained from speaking to referee Dumitri Muntean
U-21 captain Jayson Molumby is restrained from speaking to referee Dumitri Muntean
Adam Idah

Stephen Kenny remained upbeat about Ireland's prospects of reaching the European Under-21 finals despite losing their unbeaten record in damp and dreary Iceland yesterday.

Although they remain top of their group, yesterday's defeat in Reykjavik erodes any head of steam they'd build up over Italy in the chase for the automatic ticket to 2021 finals. The runner-up will have to negotiate the play-offs.

The Group One results over recent days have bunched the top quartet, with just four points separating them.

Top seeds Italy eked out a 1-0 win in Armenia and last night Sweden recorded a 3-0 victory in Luxembourg.

Second seeds Swedes come to Dublin just four days after Ireland's visit to Armenia on November 14.

Played on an artificial pitch at the Viking Arena, Kenny admitted the windy conditions in a stadium with three open sides saw the game descend into a "farce".

He was also frustrated with Moldovan referee Dumitri Muntean for awarding the contentious penalty which led to the winner, an injustice later compounded by Lee O'Connor's dismissal.

The official penalised O'Connor on 29 minutes for blocking Alex Hauksson's shot. Replays proved the effort struck his back rather than arm.

Sveinn Aron Gudjohnson, son of former Chelsea striker Eidur, sent Caoimhin Kelleher the wrong way from the spot.

In the final minute, with Ireland chasing an equaliser, the fussy referee issued O'Connor with a second yellow card for a tackle on Jan Porsteinsson.

"Their player made the most of it," contended Kenny afterwards.

O'Connor is joined on the suspended list for the trip to Armenia by Jayson Molumby after Ireland's captain incurred a booking following a skirmish at the final whistle.

It ended a frustrating afternoon for Ireland who failed to ignite in front of goal.

Adam Idah's header, which looped onto the roof of the net approaching the break, was their best chance to equalise.

"It feels harsh to lose the match on a penalty that wasn't a penalty," said Kenny afterwards.

"Lee was going to block the shot and it's hit his back. Then the referee books him. We feel very disappointed to lose the match on that decision.'

The dull atmosphere at the Reykjavik venue was the opposite to the packed Tallaght Stadium last Thursday.

Ireland followed up three victories by holding top seeds Italy scoreless before a record crowd of 7,231.

Kenny admits the contrast was an eye-opener for his high-flying team. "It was a surreal international," he said. "We've gone from the Italy game to having 40 people watching this match.

"A lot of the players wouldn't have experienced anything like today. The match was played in a wind-tunnel and space was at a premium.

"When it's on a good pitch, like our meetings against Sweden and Italy, the game is based around who can win the game on skill and quality.

"This match became a farce, needing other qualities from our players. We showed some of those qualities but Iceland got everyone behind the ball once they scored. The margins are very narrow at this level."

ICELAND: P Gunnarsson; A Sampsted, A Leifsson, H Gunnarsson; A Hauksson; K Finnsson, I Olafsson, J Pordarson (D Hafsteinsson 77), J Porsteinsson, W Willumsson; S Gudjohnson (V Ingiumundarson 77).

IRELAND: C Kelleher (Liverpool); L O'Connor (Celtic), D O'Shea (West Brom), C Masterson (QPR), K Ledwidge (Southampton); J Molumby (Millwall), C Coventry (West Ham United); Z Elbouzedi (Waterford), D Mandroiu (Bohemians), M Obafemi (Southampton); A Idah (Norwich City). Subs: G Kilkenny (Bournemouth) for Obafemi (75 mins), A Drinan (GAIS, Sweden) for Mandroiu (86 mins).

Referee: Dumitri Muntean (MDA).

Attendance: 45

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