THE Republic of Ireland U19 side went down to a 2-1 loss to Norway to get off to a disappointing start at the 12th U19 National Team Tournament in La Manga this afternoon.
Tom Mohan's side got off to a slow start and were a goal down in the third minute and while the Irish had chances to level the Norwegians extended their lead in the second half with a controversial penalty kick before Steven Kinsella got a late consolation for Ireland.
The Irish went 1-0 down in the third minute when the Norwegians burst down the left flank and Basit Agouda burst into the penalty area then flicked the ball past Irish defender Darragh Leahy for Knut Ahlander to side-foot home from eight yards out.
Josh Barrett had a chance to level less than 60 seconds later but his volley at the back post was comfortably held by goalkeeper Kjetil Haug.
Ahlander had an opportunity to extend the Norwegian lead in the eighth minute when he got his head to a left-wing cross but Irish keeper Caoimhin Kelleher did well to push his effort over the crossbar.
Barrett had a chance to level in the 15th minute when he got on the end of a right wing delivery from Canice Carroll and cut inside the defender but fired over the crossbar.
In the 16th minute the Irish had a let off when the speedy Agouda burst through but fired against Kelleher’s right post and the ball rebounded to safety.
Barrett burst through in the 37th minute and was pushed by defender Benjamin Zalo as he shot but Slovakian referee Marek Mastis waved away the Irish penalty shouts. In the 42nd minute it appeared that Norwegian midfielder Jens Petter Hauge handled in his penalty area but again the referee dismissed the appeals.
After the break the Norwegians first threatened a second goal in the 59th minute when substitute Petter Mathias Olsen had a long range shot saved by keeper Kelleher.
Norway were awarded a bizarre penalty in the 76th minute when Trevor Clarke was penalised for a challenge on Agouda which replays showed involved zero contact between the players. Agouda stepped up to slot home the spot-kick.
Steven Kinsella pulled a goal back for Ireland in the 89th minute when he steered the ball home with an overhead kick after an Anthony Scully corner had been knocked back across the goal-face by Zachary Elbouzedi.
Dan McKenna was denied an Irish equaliser two minutes into injury-time with a strike from the edge of the box that the keeper Kjetil Haug held comfortably.
Ireland will meet Portugal in their second game in the tournament on Sunday afternoon (12.00pm Irish).
"There's a lot of positives to take from it. A lot of new faces came in and did very well. The result was disappointing but outside of a poor first 20 minutes once we coped with Norway's direct style of play I was pleased with how we performed," said Mohan.
"The second goal was a soft penalty and probably gave a false impression of how the game was going. We deservedly got a goal back and maybe deserved a second one.
"Portugal will be a tough game too. This week is about giving the players game time against strong opposition and we will be making sure as many players get that opportunity as possible."
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Caoimhin Kelleher, Canice Carroll, Conor Masteron, Darragh Leahy, Conor Kane, JJ Lunney, Jayson Molumby, Steven Kinsella, Josh Barrett, Michael O’Connor, Dan Mandriou.
Subs: Shane Hanney for Carroll 46 mins; Anthony Scully for Barrett 46; Barry Cotter for Masterson 46; Dan McKenna for Molumby 57; Trevor Clarke for Kane 65; Zachary Elbouzedi for O’Connor 81.
La Manga Invitational Tournament
Friday, February 10
Republic of Ireland 1-2 Norway, La Manga Club, Murcia
Sunday, February 12
Republic of Ireland v Portugal, La Manga Club, Murcia (12.00pm Irish)
Tuesday, February 14
Republic of Ireland v Slovakia, La Manga Club, Murcia (12.00pm Irish)