Italy 0-1 Ireland
A late Robbie Brady header saw Ireland secure a place in the last 16 as they defeated Italy in Lille tonight.
Needing a win to qualify from Group E, Ireland looked to be running out of ideas against group winners Italy, but Brady popped up with five minutes to go, heading home a Wes Hoolahan cross. The win sets up a last-16 clash with France on Sunday as Ireland can look forward to their first ever knockout match at a European Championship.
Martin O’Neill made four changes to the side that were stuffed 3-0 by Belgium for this win or bust game. Richard Keogh and Shane Duffy replaced John O’Shea and Ciaran Clark at the heart of the back four and they were probably expecting to be busier than they were.
Ireland took the bull by the horns from the first whistle. Jeff Hendrick smashed a 25-yard effort inches wide of the post on 11 minutes as O’Neill’s team played on the front-foot against a reshuffled Italian side that made eight changes ahead of their last-16 clash with Spain next Monday. Duffy was the next man to go close on 23 minutes, bulleting a header that needing tipping over the crossbar by Salvatore Sirigu.
Ireland continued to press and were left seething on the stroke of half-time when Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan failed to award what looked like a clear penalty as Federico Bernardeschi challenged James McClean from behind.
It was a performance that had everything but the goal and Italy gave O’Neill’s men a reminder of their talent on 53 minutes when Simone Zaza volleyed just over from Mattia De Sciglio’s left-wing cross. Hendrick should have done better on 63 minutes when dragging a shot wide while Daryl Murphy tested Sirigu from a tight angle minutes later. As the game wore on, Italy became the more likely team to score and substitute Lorenzo Insigne struck the outside of the post with 12 minutes remaining.
Ireland’s chance looked to be slipping away, especially when substitute Hoolahan found himself through one-on-one with Sirigu but tamely placed the ball straight into his arms.
But he made amends within seconds to create a moment of Irish football history.His cross from the right was perfect for the run of Brady, who flicked the ball into the net as Sirigu flapped his hands into mid-air.Brady ran off celebrating with tears in his eyes and the waterworks were flowing throughout the Ireland end of the stadium as the final whistle signalled their place among Europe’s elite
Man of the Match – Robbie Brady (Ireland)
- Matteo Darmian replaces Federico Bernardeschi 60 mins
- Lorenzo Insigne replaces Ciro Immobile 75 mins
- Stephan El Shaarawy replaces Mattia De Sciglio 82 mins
- Aiden McGeady replaces Daryl Murphy 70 mins
- Wesley Hoolahan replaces James McCarthy 77 mins
- Stephen Quinn replaces Shane Long 90+ mins
Italy– Salvatore Sirigu,Andrea Barzagli,Simone Zaza,Lorenzo Insigne.
Ireland– Shane Long, Stephen Ward.