Aaron Connolly Jim Crawford Conor Coventry Evan Ferguson Eiran Cashin Sport Ireland Israel soccer Aaron Connolly Jim Crawford Conor Coventry Evan Ferguson Eiran Cashin Sport Ireland Israel

Connolly shines as Israel hold out for a draw

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The Republic of Ireland under-21s will perhaps rue what could have been after drawing the first leg of their UEFA European Championship play-off 1-1 at home to Israel.In a game that the home side edged over the course of 90 minutes, manager Jim Crawford will be disappointed with his side not taking an advantage over to Israel for Tuesday's second leg.Brighton's Evan Ferguson headed in the equaliser after Ireland had initially gone behind to a goal from Israel striker Idan Gorno.The biggest talking point in the build-up to the game was whether the recalled Aaron Connolly would start, and he did, partnered with Ferguson up top, fully rewarding his manager's decision to select him.The opening ten minutes were controlled by Israel, they moved the ball without creating any opportunity of note.The Irish back three of Jake O’Brien, Joe Redmond and Eiran Cashin had only ever played together in training, Redmond making his first start at this level.All eyes however where on Connolly, the player currently on loan at Serie B side Venezia who was making his first start at this level since September 2019.His first touch was good, he held the ball up and brought others into play, left-wing-back Tyreik Wright being the main player he found.Just 15 minutes in, Connolly nearly made the perfect start.

A cross from the left from Wright was headed out to the edge of the box, Conor Coventry did well to muscle possession.Coventry slipped in Connolly who was on the shoulder of the Israeli defender, and eight yards out at a narrow angle, he shot low but 'keeper Daniel Peretz made a wonderful fingertip save that flicked the ball onto the near post and it squirmed away across the goal but not across the goal-line.Aaron Connolly inches away from

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