The Republic of Ireland knew that a route through to the semi-finals of the 2019 UEFA European Under-19 Championships was not straightforward, but a 2-1 win over Czech Republic - coupled with Norway losing to France - ensured that they finished second in Group B.
22nd Jul 2019
Tom Mohan's team were fully aware of the pressure on their shoulders going into the final group game in Armenia, although they did not allow that to weigh them down as they collected a first win of this year's tournament.
A superb solo goal from striker Jonathan Afolabi opened the scoring before the break and Ireland looked to be in control of their destiny. However, Czech Republic hit back through Vasil Kusej and that briefly dented their hopes.
Within a minute, Ireland regained the lead through substitute Barry Coffey when he connected with a slick pass from Joe Hodge to slide the ball into the back of the net. That proved to be the all-important goal.
Ireland were the better of the two sides throughout the contest, even though Czech Republic created some very good chances of their own. The midfield duo of Hodge and Lee O'Connor were superb in shutting down space.
Afolabi was a constant threat up front and he clearly enjoyed his first goal of the tournament. The Dubliner did a lot of hard running and held the ball up well, while support came from Brandon Kavanagh - who missed a headed opportunity in the first half - as well as Ali Reghba, Tyreik Wright, and Matt Everitt.
Goalkeeper Brian Maher was not called on to pull off the type of Kodak moment saves that he did in the loss to France and that was mainly because of the backline of Andy Lyons, Oisin McEntee, Mark McGuinness, and Kameron Ledwidge were so solid.
One sour note was the bookings picked up by O'Connor and Afolabi which rules them out of the semi-final clash with Portugal. But Ireland deserve to be amongst the final four and they will relish the chance to keep going into this competition.
Republic of Ireland: Maher; Lyons, McEntee, McGuinness, Ledwidge; O'Connor, Hodge; Reghba (Ebosele 90+4), Kavanagh (Coffey 56), Wright (Everitt 46); Afolabi (Grant 90+4).
Czech Republic: Kovar; Mika (Konopasek 46), Zima, Heidenreich, Fulaka (Finek 18); Machacek (Husek 85), Kaloc; Kusej, Zlatohlevk (Solil 78), Kohut; Kepl (Selnar 78).
Referee: Anastasios Papapetrou (Greece).