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Thursday 21 Mar 2024
U21s lose out to Czechia in friendly

Northern Ireland’s Under-21s performed well in an international challenge match against Czechia this evening.

U21s boss Tommy Wright expected the friendly at the CFIG Arena in Pardubice to be a tough test for his players – and his prediction was spot on.

The Czechs ran out 3-0 winners, with their captain scoring twice, however Northern Ireland competed well throughout in front of close to 3000 spectators and arguably created enough chances after the break to get back into it.

The Northern Ireland starting line-up featured three U21 debutants: Everton goalkeeper Fraser Barnsley, Cliftonville defender Odhran Casey and Linfield midfielder Josh Archer.

The hosts pressed right from the start and the visitors’ defence had to work their socks off to keep them at bay.

Czechia eventually took the lead on 17 minutes when Adam Karabec fed captain Vaclav Sejk and the striker found the net.

The same pair combined in the 34th minute. Sejk played a one-two with Karabec before slotting the ball past Barnsley for his second goal of the game.

Five minutes later Barnsley did well to push away a shot from Czechia attacker Denis Visinsky.

Northern Ireland’s best chance of the half fell to midfielder Justin Devenny, whose strike was just off target.

Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper Pierce Charles made his U21s debut at the start of the second half, while Larne midfielder Dylan Sloan and Linfield midfielder Rhys Annett also made their U21 bows during the second period.

Northern Ireland changed their shape after the break, to 3-5-2, and they began to dominate possession.

Darren Robinson had a scuffed shot saved on the line, while Dale Taylor also had an effort blocked.

On the hour mark Charlie Allen rounded Czech substitute keeper Lukas Hornicek and was about to put the ball in the net when he was pulled down by Hornicek. Bizarrely the referee felt no foul had been committed when in fact the keeper should have been given his marching orders.

In the 68th minute Czech wing-back Josef Kozeluh smashed a 20-yard drive against the post.

Ten minutes later the hosts went three up against the run of play. Substitute Denis Halinsky got on the end of a free-kick delivered by substitute Michal Sevcik and tucked the ball home from close range.

Northern Ireland continued to have decent amounts of possession, however too often their final ball let them down.

Next up for the U21s is a UEFA U21 Euro 2025 qualifier against Serbia next Tuesday (26 March). That game is being staged in the Gradski Stadion Dubocica in Leskovac, with a 6pm start UK time.

Czechia U21: Antonin Kinsky, Stepan Chaloupek, Patrik Vydra, Daniel Fila, Vaclav Sejk (captain), Adam Karabec, Denis Visinsky, Albert Labik, Filip Prebsi, Josef Kozeluh, Marek Icha.

Substitutes: Matyas Vagner (GK), Lukas Hornicek (GK), Martin Vitik, Ondrej Kricfalusi, Matej Sin, Jakub Kristan, Christophe Kabongo, Tom Sloncik, Denis Halinsky, Denis Alijagic, Michal Cernak, Michal Sevcik.

Northern Ireland U21: Fraser Barnsley, Carl Johnston (captain), Sean Stewart, Ruairi McConville, Sam McClelland, Odhran Casey, Charlie Allen, Josh Archer, Dale Taylor, Justin Devenny, Ciaran McGuckin.

Substitutes: (used) Darren Robinson, Pierce Charles (GK), Tommy Fogarty, Dylan Sloan, Rhys Annett, Ethan McGee; (unused) Stephen McMullan (GK), Craig Farquhar, Benjamin Magee, Charlie Lindsay.