Northern Ireland’s Under-21s were defeated 2-1 by Slovakia U21s in a Euro qualifier in Zilina this afternoon.
A late penalty from Jakub Kadak earned the hosts maximum points in the U21 Euro 2023 Group C qualifier.
Slovakia had 17 efforts on goal compared to Northern Ireland’s six in the match at Stadion MSK Zilina. Slovakia took the lead through Matej Trusa in the first half before Northern Ireland drew level thanks to a Carl Johnston close range finish around the hour mark. The hosts’ winner was scored in the 86th minute.
John Schofield’s side were aiming to do the double over the Slovakians after defeating them 1-0 at Mourneview Park last September, however it was not to be.
The first opportunity of the game came after just two minutes when Slovakia midfielder Roland Galcik fired in a shot, however his effort was off target. Slovakia’s Adrian Kapralik was next to have a go, but again his shot failed to hit the target.
Northern Ireland striker Dale Taylor had a shot blocked before captain Ethan Galbraith scooped a shot past the post and goalkeeper Ollie Webber kept out a Trusa strike.
Webber was called into action again, this time keeping out a Kapralik drive, and down the other end Sean Stewart dragged a shot wide.
Slovakia had a flurry of chances around the half-hour mark, including a Jan Bernat effort that hit the woodwork.
On 37 minutes Trusa opened the scoring with a tidy finish - and the hosts missed two more chances before the break.
After the restart Shea Charles forced a good save out of Slovakia netminder Lubomir Belko. At the other end both Trusa and Galcik missed the target.
A minute past the hour mark Northern Ireland equalised through midfielder Carl Johnston. Chris McKee cut the ball back to him inside the six-yard box and he poked it home from close range.
After that the game became a bit scrappy, with both sides conceding free-kicks.
On 84 minutes Galbraith delivered a corner which was met by Aaron Donnelly, however Belko was equal to his effort.
Slovakia substitute Patrick Il’ko had a shot blocked before Galbraith committed a foul that led to a penalty. Midfielder Kadak slotted the ball home to put Slovakia 2-1 up.
In added time Webber made a stop from Slovakian sub Tomas Bobcek and that was the last meaningful action of the game.
Next up for the U21s is a friendly against France’s U21s at the Stade de l'Épopée in Calais on Monday (7.45pm kick-off, UK time).
Northern Ireland U21s: Ollie Webber, Sean Stewart, Aaron Donnelly, Kofi Balmer, Shea Charles, Charlie McCann, Carl Johnston, Ethan Galbraith (captain), Dale Taylor, Alfie McCalmont, Chris McKee. Substitutes: (used) Jack Scott, John McGovern, Isaac Price, Barry Baggley; (unused) Dylan Berry (GK), Sam McClelland, Oisin Smyth, Finn Cousin-Dawson, Ross McCausland.
Slovakia U21s: Lubomir Belko, Ivan Mesik (captain), Tomas Nemcik, Adam Obert, Samuel Sul’a, Filip Lichy, Jan Bernat, Roland Galcik, Adrian Kapralik, Jakub Kadak. Matej Trusa. Substitutes: Ivan Krajcirik (GK), Gergely Tumma, Sebastian Nebyla, Martin Svidersky, Patrick Il’ko, Adam Tucny, Tomas Bobcek, Matus Vojtko, Kristian Mihalek.