20.07.2011 at 20:00 Football Centre FRF - Buftea
1 - 2
Rep of Ireland Under 19
Referee: Pawel Gil (POL)
Aaron Mc Carey
John O Sullivan
Greece 1 Rep of Ireland 2
The Republic of Ireland U19's claimed a dramatic 2-1 victory over Greece in their opening match of the UEFA Championship finals in Romania on Wednesday night. Irish defender Anthony O' Connor was the goal scoring hero for Paul Doolin's men following his strikes in the 2nd and 51st minute with Greece's initial equaliser coming from Giorgos Katidis in the 5th minute of the game.
Ireland's victory was made even more significant by the adverse weather conditions which brought a halt to proceedings in the earlier Group B clash between Spain and Belgium which will have to be re-started tomorrow. A thunder and lightning storm coupled with teeming rain threatened Ireland's opening game but from the early exchanges between the two sides, it was evident a thrilling encounter was in store.
Ireland got off to the best possible start after only two minutes when O'Connor met a low Sean Murray corner inside the box and his powerful right-footed half-volley was blasted past Greek keeper, Stefanos Kapino to give Ireland the lead.
That lead lasted just three minutes as Greek striker Giorgos Katidis benefitted from the weather conditions affecting the game. A Nikos Karelis cross from the right wing was punched away by Irish keeper, Aaron McCarey but was met by Katidis at the edge of the box who guided past McCarey who failed to regain his feet following his clearance.
Karelis was again causing problems for the Irish defence after 36 minutes and Greece should have taken the lead but for Irish captain John Egan who intercepted a dangerous cross from Karelis to deny Fortounis an easy nod in from close range.
Anthony Forde was unlucky not to hit the back of the net after 39 minutes when a speculative shot from the left-wing was guided to the near post by the swirling wind and Greek keeper, Kapino managed to palm the ball on to the post and clear the ball to safety.
Anthony O' Connor was again on-hand to give Ireland the lead in the 51st minute from another corner. This time, Sean Murray played a short corner to Samir Carruthers on the right and his sublime cross was met by O'Connor at the far post who powered his header past the keeper from close range.
Greece almost equalised in the 57th minute when Fortounis squared the ball to Katidis at the edge of the box but his powerful drive was just over Aaron McCarey's crossbar.
Despite the dogged determination of the Irish defence, Greece had a number of opportunities to level the game but a combination of sloppy finishing and tight defending ensured that Greece would draw a blank in the second half. Greek substitute, Anastasios Bakasetas went agonisingly close in the 78th minute when he latched onto a Fortounis ball at the edge of the box but his shot went inches over the Irish cross-bar.
In the closing stages of the game, the ever-dangerous Kostas Fortounis went close once again in the 83rd minute when he blasted over from 10 yards and a minute later, Aaron McCarey made an important save from a Kotsaridis header from eight yards to secure the three points for Paul Doolin's side.
In the other game in Group A, tournament hosts Romania were defeated 3-1 by the Czech Republic. Ireland will now face the Czechs on Saturday at 5pm (Irish time) knowing that victory will be enough to secure qualification to the UEFA Championship semi-finals.