Northern Ireland U19s kicked off their UEFA European Championship Elite Round qualifying campaign with a narrow defeat to France in Orleans.
UEFA U19 Championship Elite Round Group 1 qualifying
France U19s 1-0 Northern Ireland U19s
France U19s: Wilson Odobert (15’)
Stade de la Source, Orleans
Wednesday 22 March 2023
The game was the U19s first game in Group 1 of Elite Round qualifying for the UEFA European Championships.
As well as host nation France, Northern Ireland will also face Romania and Norway over the course of the week.
Manager Gerard Lyttle was forced to make the trip without six of his potential starting XI, namely Michael Forbes and Patrick Kelly (West Ham United), Ruairi McConville (Brighton & Hove Albion), Stephen McMullan (Fleetwood Town), Matthew Carson (Southampton) and Reece Evans (Leciester City).
Nottingham Forest midfielder Jamie McDonnell was named as captain for the game.
How it happened
The hosts opened the scoring on 15 minutes after Mathys Tel sent over a low cross from the right for Wilson Odobert to sweep into the net from the edge of the six yard box.
Northern Ireland keeper Josh Clarke did well to deny the French just after the half-hour mark when he scooped the ball from underneath the bar after Chimuanya Ugochukwu's downward header from Edan Diop's corner.
Then, a few minutes after that Tel was denied by some resolute defending before Dop squandered a golden opportunity after connecting with a cross from the left only to sidefoot the ball straight at Clarke.
Clarke was called into action again a few minutes from the break, rushing out to spread his body to block at Odobert effort before the danger was cleared.
Half-time: France U19s 1-0 Northern Ireland U19s
Northern Ireland looked a much better proposition after the break, creating a number of half chances with Charlie Lindsay posing particular problems for the French defence.
Indeed, Lindsay came within a whisker of levelling on 70 minutes only to see his near post effort from Aaron Wightman's corner turned away at the near post by keeper Robin Risser.
At the other end substitute Eliesse Ben Seghir had a go with a low, stinging effort from outside the area but Clarke did well to get down to make the save.
Full-time: France U19s 1-0 Northern Ireland U19s
France U19s: Robin Risser, Therence Koudou, Wakis Kore, Younes El Hannach, Kassoum Ouattara, Chimuanya Ugochukwu (Malamine Efekele 84'), Warren Zaïre-Emery (Khalil Fayad 84'), Nathan Buayi-Kiala, Wilson Odobert (Eliesse Ben Seghir 71'), Mathys Tel, Edan Diop (Désiré Doué 71')
Subs not used: Mathieu Patouillet, Vimoj Muntu Wa Mungu, Sael Kumbedi, Ayman Kari, Leny Yoro
Northern Ireland U19s: Josh Clarke, Jamie Dran, Brodie Spencer, Tommy Fogerty, Daithi McCallion, Aaron Wightman, Darren Robinson (Aaron Prendergast 86'), Jamie McConnell, Conor Scannell (Dylan Sloan 71'), Charlie Lindsay (Rio Oudnie-Morgan 71'), Mackenzie Kirk (Sam Glenfield 57')
Subs not used: Pierce Charles, Joshua Roney, Conor Falls, Sean Brown