Tuesday 21 January 2020

Kenny's youngsters off to a flying start

Ireland 4-1 China

Zach Elbouzedi. Photo: Alexandre Dimou/Sportsfile
Zach Elbouzedi. Photo: Alexandre Dimou/Sportsfile

Stephen Kenny's Ireland Under-21s got their Toulon Tournament off to a flyer by sweeping past Guus Hiddink's China side at Stade de Lattre in Aubagne yesterday.

Zack Elbouzedi opened the scoring after just 33 seconds, followed by a second from Aaron Connolly four minutes later.

Although Yang Li halved the arrears on 18, a couple of second-half penalties from Adam Idah killed off the game.

With only one injury-enforced absence heading into the tournament, Kenny kept faith with the other ten players that recorded a resounding 3-0 victory over Luxembourg in March. The vacancy left by Neil Farrugia's hamstring trouble was filled by Connolly who was at the hub of the action on the left wing.

Straight from the kick-off, Connolly slipped past his marker Lei Tong. His low cross missed Idah but fell to Elbouzedi, who side-footed his shot from ten yards in off the underside of the crossbar.

It got even better for Connolly and Ireland four minutes later. When Connor Ronan's free-kick into the wall rebounded, he hooked a pass over it to find Dara O'Shea whose cushioned header picked out Connolly to volley home.

Masterson had to scamper back on 18 minutes to clear off the line after Huanhuan Shan had nipped past the advancing Caoimhin Kelleher. From the resulting corner, Yang Li had a free header which beat Kelleher and dropped in off the crossbar.

However, Ireland went on to underline their dominance with two more goals in the second half. Idah grabbed both, each from the penalties awarded for handballs.

He made it 3-1 on 56 minutes after Elbouzedi's cross was struck the arm of Li, presenting the Norwich forward the opportunity to stroke the ball beyond Wei Chen. Idah struck again eight minutes from time when Jing Guo handled a shot from substitute Jason Knight.

Next up for Ireland is Mexico on Thursday night followed by the concluding Group C match against Bahrain on Sunday.

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