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Ireland U21s suffer last-gasp heartache as Italy claim draw

Republic of Ireland 2-2 Italy

A chance at history ended in heartbreak for the Republic of Ireland Under-21s as a last second Wilfried Gnonto goal stopped Jim Crawford's team from recording a famous win over Italy in European Championships qualifying at Turner’s Cross.

It finished 2-2, with the draw feeling like a loss after Jim Crawford’s team led twice on the night through goals from Killian Philips and Sinclair Armstrong.

Given the history between these two countries, there was always going to be a tinge of possibility in the air. Never mind the presence of players like Gnonto, Italy’s youngest ever goal scorer at senior level, PSG’s Cher N’Dour, and Roma’s Edoardo Bove.

With over 30 years of games, there was plenty to draw from of what can be achieved and that feeling resonated with Crawford’s players. They were aggressive, so much so that they won a corner inside two minutes.

The only thing that came out of the set piece was a free-out over a foul on Sebastiano Desplanches.

Even when Italy started asserting themselves, Ireland comfortably kept them at bay. Bosun Lawal had the biggest individual contribution during this period as he stood his ground to block a N’Dour shot with ease.

Gnonto was the next player in blue and white to try something, and his attempt at turning in a Matteo Prati pass ended in a goal-kick.

Then, Emakhu played Sinclair Armstrong through and he sent a low cross into the area. After Sam Curtis failed to get a shot away, Phillips pounced and hit the back of the net in the 31st minute.

Anselmo García MacNulty could have made it 2-0 with a header from a Healy free-kick but he missed the target.

Any sense of expectation was dampened in the final seconds of the first half as Gnonto's shot was judged to have