Northern Ireland’s Under-16 development team produced another fine display to win the second of their three matches in a four-team UEFA U16 development tournament being staged in Poland this week.
UEFA U16 Development Tournament
Luxembourg U16s 0-3 Northern Ireland U16s
Northern Ireland: Blaine McClure, Sean Corry, Chris Atherton
Osir Stadium, Police
Wednesday 29 March 2023
Head coach Michael McClean made eight changes from the team that started the tournament opener against South Africa, which Northern Ireland won 2-1.
How it happened
Northern Ireland scored in the first minute. Blaine McClure received the ball from the kick-off and found Kenzie Beattie who in turn played the ball into the path of Aodhan Sopala and he was scythed down inside the penalty area. McClure stepped up to take the spot kick and smashed the ball into the top corner.
Sopala was involved again just three minutes later when his shot was handled on the line by a Luxembourg defender, who was given his marching orders.
McClure stepped up to the spot once again, however this time his well struck penalty was superbly saved by the keeper.
The remainder of the half was played in the Luxembourg half. Northern Ireland controlled the game with some impressive play but could not find a second goal.
Half-time: Luxembourg U16s 0-1 Northern Ireland U16s
After the interval the pattern of the game did not change as Luxembourg were happy to sit back and defend in numbers.
To Northern Ireland’s credit they managed the game well and as the opposition started to tire gaps appeared.
Substitute Braiden Graham exploited one of those gaps. He beat his man down the right before picking out Sean Corry, who had made a great run across the keeper, and the striker made no mistake to make it 2-0.
Michael McClean made use of his whole squad after the second goal. And one of the subs, Chris Atherton, put the game beyond doubt. He received the ball down the left and skipped past three markers with ease before smashing the ball into the top corner. It was an excellent finish.
Their third and final game will see the U16s take on hosts Poland on Saturday (1 April). The game in Police in north-west Poland is set to kick off at 9.30am BST. It will be a winner takes all affair as Poland have also won their two games to date in the mini tournament.
Full-time: Luxembourg U16s 0-3 Northern Ireland U16s
Northern Ireland: Josh Gracey, Conor Haughey, Alex Watson, Jack Doherty, Fionn Duffy, Aodhan Sopala, Calum Burnside, Blaine McClure (captain), Sean Corry, Kenzie Beattie, George Feeney. Substitutes: (used) Owen Grainger (GK), Caoimhan McDermott, Conor McVeigh, James Simpson, Dylan Stitt, Cole Brannigan, Braiden Graham, Chris Atherton.