The Republic of Ireland Under-21’s dreams of reaching their first ever European Championship ended in heartbreaking style as they were beaten by Israel on penalties at the Bloomfield Stadium, Tel Aviv in the second leg of their play-off on Tuesday night.The two nations remained locked at 0-0 after 120 minutes, and 1-1 on aggregate, so penalties were required to decide who will progress to next summer's finals in Georgia and Romania and three saves from goalkeeper Daniel Peretz were enough to send Israel through with a 3-1 win in the shoot-out.
FT | 🇮🇱 0-0 🇮🇪 (3-1 penalties)
Heartbroken. Ireland u21s bow out of the European Championships after a loss on penalties.
Cruel way to go out after a fantastic campaign.#IRLU21 | #COYBIG | #WeAreOne pic.twitter.com/xwOOm37ELC
— FAIreland ⚽️🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) September 27, 2022
The Boys in Green worked tirelessly during the first half but their only sights at goal were a powerful Joe Hodge hit from the edge of the penalty area that sailed over the crossbar and a looping Jake O’Brien header from a set piece that Peretz easily saved. The visitors were forced to defend for large period as Israel, urged on by their huge home crowd, dominated proceedings, particularly in the closing stages before half time. It took a sensational save from Derry City shot-stopper Brian Maher to prevent the Irish from falling behind in the 32nd minute as he got down to his right to stop Idan Gorno’s low drive when he raced onto a through ball behind the defence. The Israelis again went close just before the break but after cutting onto his right foot, the lively Oscar Gloukh dragged his shot from a great position inside the box inches wide of the near post. Ireland started the second period on the front foot and Aaron Connolly nearly found the far bottom right corner with a brilliant curler within two minutes of the restart but it just dropped the wrong side of the post. Israel almost broke the deadlock just before the hour mark after Maher parried a thunderous attempt from Liel Abada, striker Idan Gorno could only send the rebound against the outside of the upright with the goal at his mercy. Both sides had chances from distance as normal time drew to a close and the best opportunity in the final minutes fell to Ireland and the excellent Finn Azaz but his fierce strike, after a smart one-two with William Smallbone, was somehow stopped by the outstretched arm of Peretz. Both sides were understandably tired in the searing heat during the extra time so genuine goal-scoring opportunities were at a premium. As a goal wasn’t forthcoming, a penalty shoot-out was required and ultimately a trio of great saves from Peretz broke Irish hearts.
Afterwards Under-21 captain Conor Coventry reflected on the loss in Tel Aviv: "Obviously we’re devastated," Coventry claimed on RTÉ Sport. "We’ve been on a great run and I’m really proud of the lads in there.
"The lads in there, some of them are still boys and to have the bottle to stand up there and take a penalty in front of so many fans.
"I’ve got massive respect for everyone in there, we fought and gave everything and I just love playing for this team.
"We gave everything and left everything out there. They were probably the better team tonight and we were the better team in Tallaght, maybe we could have capitalised on that a bit more.
"What can you say? It’s penalties obviously it’s a skill but there’s a bit of luck involved as well, so congratulations to them."
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) September 27, 2022
Israel: Peretz; Melamud, Morgan, Cohen; Herman (Zasno 74), Karzev, Gloukh (Hofmeister 97), Shahar (Kanaan 62), Leidner (Layous 63); Gorno (Davida 70), Abade (Levi 97).Republic of Ireland: Maher; O’Connor, Redmond, O’Brien, Cashin (Roughan 90); Smallbone (O’Neill 106), Hodge (Devoy 59), Coventry, Lyons (Wright 84); Connolly (Ferguson 106), Tierney (Azaz 59). Referee: Nathan Verboomen (Belgium).