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Connolly shines as Israel holds out to draw

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Ireland 1 – 1 Israel

The Republic of Ireland under-21s will regret what happened after they drew 1-1 at home to Israel in the first leg of the UEFA European Championship play-offs.

With the home side trailing for 90 minutes, manager Jim Crawford will be disappointed not to take advantage of Israel in the second leg on Tuesday.

Brighton’s Evan Ferguson scored the equalizer as Ireland fell behind Israeli striker Idan Gorno’s goal.

The biggest topic heading into the game was whether the recalled Aaron Connolly would start.

Israel took control in the opening ten minutes and moved the ball around without creating any notable opportunities.

The Irish backsleys of Jake O’Brien, Joe Redmond and Eylan Kashin had never played together in training, making Redmond’s first start at this level.

However, all eyes are on Connolly, a player currently on loan at Serie B-side Venice, who made his first start at this level since September 2019.

His first touch was good. He kept the ball and got the others into play. The main player he found was left-back Tyrek Wright.

In just 15 minutes, Connolly is off to a near-perfect start. Wright’s cross from the left flanked the edge of the box, giving Conor his Coventry excellent possession.

Coventry slipped into Connolly, who was on the Israeli defender’s shoulder, and shot at a tight angle eight yards out, but keeper Daniel Peretz made a fine fingertip save, flicking the ball to the near post and twisting the ball. let me A goal, but not over the goal line.

The home side had the upper hand, but Oskar Grook kept them straight with a shot from long range that sank into the roof of Brian Maher’s net.

Connolly once again fended off a challenge from an Israeli defender and managed to pass to Lee O’Connor.

O’Connor found a great pass for Connolly to his feet in the box.

Ireland continued their aggressive approach to the game. Coventry and Joe Hodge provided solid platforms in midfield, with Ferguson constantly plaguing Israel’s defense.

Five minutes before the half-time whistle sounded, Ferguson drifted inside several Israeli defenders and laid the ball off Will Smallbone.

At that time Ireland was turned off for some reason. Gluck threw a superb free-kick that Maher swooped in and parried, before Kanaan ran from the left to the inside and tried Maher again from long range.

However, Maher is not satisfied with the decision making to the goal. A floating corner kick to the back post was attractive enough for the Derry City keeper to come and claim, but he could not come close to it. Gorno had a relatively easy task of moving up over Redmond at the back post and heading into the empty net.

Just 13 minutes into the second period, Connolly’s behind run was finally spotted by Redmond and Gulwijan scored a free-kick on the right near the end line.

Smallbone took the ball to the back post and the excellent Cassin crossed the goal, but the Irish players weren’t competing to win.

Connolly then received the ball on the left flank and attempted to dribble through several defenders before scoring a corner. Connolly attracted 6,786 fans just by trying it out and attacking players.

Finally, Ireland were rewarded with a positive approach when Wright sent a corner to Ferguson’s head, who planted it firmly in the bottom corner to equalize.

Ireland’s tail was up. Wright raised a cross back to his post after Ferguson’s steep shot from the right flank.

Connolly could not get enough power to pass the Israeli keeper.

Connolly chased every lost cause, every aimless ball, turned a bad pass into a good one, and provided fellow strike partner Ferguson with a good foil. Replaced Ferguson, who bumped into him.

With just ten minutes remaining, Connolly spun backwards again after a through ball in the Coventry loft. This time, he was clipped by retreating Israeli defender Stav Lemkin and referee Dario Bell showed him a red card without hesitation.

Ireland’s assistant coach John O’Shea couldn’t believe the penalty hadn’t been awarded.

It was nearing the end of Hollywood for Connolly. He chased his own flick-on and volleyed his over from 18 yards out. It would have driven home fans into a frenzy, but it didn’t.

It’s all about playing next Tuesday night in Tel Aviv in the second leg, which kicks off at 6:15pm. Live on RTE player. Interview starts at 6:10pm.

Republic of Ireland U21: Brian Maher; Jake O’Brien, Eilan Kashin, Joe Redmond. Lee O’Connor, Connor Coventry (c), Joe Hodge (Dawson Devoy 73), Tyrek Wright (Festy Evocere 83). Will Smallbone; Aaron Connolly, Evan Ferguson (Mipo Odubeko 79).

Israel U21: Daniel Peretz; Roi Herman (Karm Jaber 60), El Yam Kancepolsky (Yoav Hofmeister), Ziv Morgan, Gil Cohen (C), Stav Lemkin; , Oskar Grouk, Id Shahar. Idan Gorno (Noam Gil Melamud 83).

Referee: Dario Bell (CRO).