Connolly shines as Israel hold in draw

Ireland’s under-21 team may regret what it could have been after their 1-1 draw in the first leg of their UEFA European Championship play-off at home to Israel.

In a game the hosts lost over the course of 90 minutes, coach Jim Crawford will be disappointed that his side did not capitalize on Israel in Tuesday’s second leg.

Brighton’s Evan Ferguson scored the equalizer after Ireland had initially fallen behind with a goal from Israeli striker Aidan Journo.

The biggest talking point in the run-up to the game was whether call-up Aaron Connolly would start, and he shared Ferguson at the top, perfectly rewarding his manager’s decision to pick him.

The opening ten minutes were controlled by Israel, and they moved the ball without creating any chance of being noticed.

The three Irish defenders Jake O’Brien, Joe Redmond and Iran Kachin have only played together in training, and Redmond made his debut at this level.

But all eyes are on Connolly, the current loanee at Serie B side Venice who has been making his first appearance at this level since September 2019.

The first touch was good, he picked up the ball and got the others into play, and left-back Terek Wright was the key player to find him.

After just 15 minutes, Connolly nearly made the perfect start. A cross from the left from Wright headed to the edge of the penalty area, and Connor Coventry improved muscle possession.

Coventry slid into Connolly who was on the shoulder of the Israeli defender and, eight yards from a tight corner, shot low, but ‘goalkeeper Daniel Peretz superbly fingertips, as he flicked the ball to the near post and then slid across the goal. But not across the goal. goal line.

The homers were now in the lead, but Oscar Gluck kept them straight, and launched a long-range attempt that landed on Brian Maher’s net ceiling.

Connolly did well once again to fend off a challenge from an Israeli defender and managed to pass a wide pass to Lee O’Connor.

O’Connor found Connolly with a superb two-footed pass inside the penalty area, he was precise in control, spinning and shooting but the ball drifted away from the far post.

Ireland continued its proactive approach to the game. Coventry and Joe Hodge provide a solid platform in midfield, while Ferguson has been a constant nuisance to the Israeli defense.

Five minutes before the end of the first half whistle, Ferguson drifted inside two Israeli defenders before throwing the ball to Will Smallbone’s first-time shot that Peretz managed to turn over.

That was when, for some reason, Ireland shut down. Galloch hit a superb free kick that Maher sharply parried to block it, before Kanaan drifted inside from the left and tested Maher again from a distance.

However, Maher would not be happy with his goal decision, as the floating corner kick to the back post was tempting enough for the Derry City keeper to come and claim it but he didn’t come close to it. Journeau climbed over Redmond in the back corner and had the relatively simple task of heading into the empty goal.

Just 13 minutes into the second half, Redmond hit back from Connolly, and the Gallagher won a wide free kick on the right near the finish line.

Small Boone put the ball to the back post as the Premier Kashin headed across the goal but no Irish player was racing to get to the end of it.

Connolly then received the ball on the left and tried to dribble between two defenders before winning a corner. Just by going and running on players, Connolly was winning over 6,786 fans in attendance.

Ireland was finally rewarded for their positive approach when Wright took a corner kick straight into Ferguson’s header who planted it hard into the bottom corner for the equalizer.

Ireland’s tails were raised. Wright crossed to the back post after running up the bottom right of Ferguson.

Smallbone introduced a cross to Connolly who could not get enough of his purchase to get past the Israeli guard.

Connolly chased every losing cause, every goalless ball, turning bad passes into good passes and providing a fine frustration to fellow attacking Ferguson. Mipo Odubeko replaced Ferguson who ran his legs on the ground.

With only ten minutes left, Connolly turned back again after a pass from Coventry Bye. This time he was cut short by withdrawing Israeli defender Stav Lemkin and referee Dario Bell did not hesitate to show a red card.

Ireland assistant coach John O’Shea couldn’t believe a penalty wasn’t awarded, it looked so close.

It was almost the end of Hollywood for Connolly. He chased after his flick to shoot the ball from 18 yards which would have made the home crowd go wild, but it wasn’t.

Everything has to play for him in the return leg, which takes place in Tel Aviv next Tuesday night at 6.15pm. Live on the RTE operator. Coverage begins at 6.10pm.

Republic of Ireland under 21: Brian Maher; Jake O’Brien, Iran Kashin, Joe Redmond; Lee O’Connor, Connor Coventry (centre), Joe Hodge (Dawson Defoe 73), Tyrick Wright (Vestee Ibucell 83); Small will-bone Aaron Connolly, Evan Ferguson (Mebo Odobico 79).

Israel U21: Daniel Peretz; Roy Hermann (Karam Jaber 60), Alem Kanspolsky (Yoav Hofmeister), Ziv Morgan, Jill Cohen (centre), Stav Lemkin; Usher Davida (Zohar Zasno), Muhammad Kanaan (Hisham Lewis 60), Oscar Galloch, Ido Shahar; Aidan Journo (Noam Gil Melamud 83).

Referee: Dario Bell (CRO).