Saturday 7 December 2019

No shame as Kenny's kids bow out to brilliant Brazil

FIRST TOUCH: Jayson Molumby goes for the ball against Claudio Rodrigues in yesterday’s semi-final. Pic: Sportsfile
FIRST TOUCH: Jayson Molumby goes for the ball against Claudio Rodrigues in yesterday’s semi-final. Pic: Sportsfile

Ireland's quest to reach the Toulon Tournament final was obliterated with a goal in each half of yesterday's semi-final in Vitrolles.

Stephen Kenny's outfit faced an uphill task against an older Brazil team preparing to defend their Olympic title next year. And apart from a chance for Connor Ronan to equalise just before the break, Ireland rarely troubled the classy South Americans.

In fact, Manchester City star Douglas Silva should have made an early breakthrough but sliced a third-minute penalty wide. It didn't matter though as Paulinho fired the Samba Boys ahead on 15 minutes before the tournament top scorer Matheus Cunha tucked away the second two minutes after half-time.

The Boys in Green will meet Mexico in Saturday's third-place play-off, a curtain raiser for the final between Brazil and Japan.

Zack Elbouzedi's withdrawal from the squad due to a dislocated shoulder sustained against China on Monday afforded Stephen Mallon a first appearance under Kenny. The Belfast-born winger spent time on loan at A-League side Central Coast Mariners from Sheffield United last season.

André Soares Jardine, a former assistant to senior boss Luis Felipe Scolari, ordered his Brazil side to attack from the outset and when Conor Masterson bundled Matheus Cunha over six yards out, Mexican referee Marcos Enrique Santander pointed to the spot and booked the former Liverpool defender.

Goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher, still at Anfield, went the wrong way but the holding midfielder missed the target.

Ireland's first attempt fell to defender Dara O'Shea, who nodded over from a corner, but the slick passing of Brazil soon opened them up.

Paulinho was allowed slip away from Jayson Molumby to get a clear sight at goal from 25 yards. Although his shot didn't carry much venom, it bobbled over the hand of Kelleher and into the net.

Then came Ireland's best chance to level. Darragh Leahy's cross from the left drifted all the way to fellow full-back Lee O'Connor. The Manchester United defender squared for Ronan, who blazed his shot over from 10 yards.

And Ireland conceded a soft second within 100 seconds of the restart. Once again, Paulinho was involved by cutting in from the left and his lay-off allowed Matheus Cunha to swivel and tuck a low shot through a thicket of Irish defenders and beyond a static Kelleher.

A swift response was needed and Aaron Connolly almost provided it. However, as was the case with Ronan's opportunity, he was unable to keep it under the bar.

Kelleher was forced to go full-stretch in denying substitute Guga a third but Ireland can feel no shame at bowing out against the best team at the 12-nation tournament.

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