Northern Ireland’s Under-17s suffered a second defeat on the spin in the elite round of the 2019 U17 Euro qualifiers, losing 2-0 at the hands of the Czech Republic.
Both goals came in the second half of Saturday’s clash and the result means Stephen Frail’s men are now bottom of Group 2 following a 5-0 defeat to the Netherlands in their opening match.
Northern Ireland were left to rue a missed penalty before the Czechs landed two decisive blows in the second period.
In what proved to be a cagey first 45 minutes at Sport Park Juliana in the Netherlands, Frail’s side suffered an early setback when a thigh strain forced striker Aaron Brown to leave the field to be replaced by Ben Wylie with just nine minutes gone.
Chances were at a premium but Czech captain Adam Hložek had Northern Ireland stopper Dermot Mee on his toes with a good effort on 17 minutes before his team-mate Adam Ritter fired another warning shot a few minutes later.
Both sides were cancelling each other out but Northern Ireland were presented with a golden opportunity when MacKenzie O’Neill was upended in the box by Jan Hellebrand. Referee Balazs Berke pointed to the spot and O’Neill took on the responsibility. But it wasn’t to be for the Wigan Athletic youth player who saw his spot kick saved by Lukas Hornicek as he dived the right way.
After the break the Czechs came out looking more determined and with just three minutes of the second half gone they broke the deadlock when a low cross from the left was turned in by Lucas Hronik.
The Czech Republic doubled their advantage on 71 minutes when a bit of trickery on the byline from Hložekled led to a cross for substitute David Pech who confidently slotted the ball past Mee to secure all three points, dashing Northern Ireland’s hopes of progressing from the group.
Northern Ireland play Israel in their third and final group game on Tuesday (26 March).
Northern Ireland U17s: Dermot Mee (Manchester United), Jack Scott (Linfield), Sean Stewart (St Oliver Plunkett), Kyle McClelland (Rangers), Sam McClelland (c) (Chelsea), Dylan Boyle (Fleetwood Town), Carl Johnston (Fleetwood Town), Barry Crowe-Baggley (Fleetwood Town), MacKenzie O’Neill (Wigan Athletic), Dale Taylor (Linfield), Aaron Brown (Bury).
Subs: David Walsh (GK) (Linfield), Trai Hume (Linfield), Ben Wylie (Celtic, replaced Brown, 9’), Peter McKiernan (Cliftonville, replaced Crowe-Baggley 75’), Euan Deveney (Kilmarnock, replaced Stewart 75’), John McGivern (Linfield), Ross Hunter (Glenavon, replaced O’Neill, 53’).