17.08.2004 at 19:00 United Park, Drogheda
Referee: C Redmond (Scotland).
Friendly / PROG-match
Statto: Aidan Mc Geady makes his u21 Debut- Stephen Elliott equals under 21 Scoring record
The Republic of Ireland Under 21s made it 12-games unbeaten on Tuesday night as an 89th minute goal by Paddy McCarthy ensured a 3-2 victory over a determined Bulgaria at United Park, Drogheda.
Republic of Ireland 3-2 Bulgaria
In a night of so many positives for Ireland; a third last minute result saving goal during the 12 match run, Stephen Elliott equalling the Irish Under 21 goal scoring record with his fifth goal in eight appearances and Jay Tabb hitting his first ever goal in an Irish shirt, it was Aiden McGeady who stole the show.
The 18-year-old, making his Under 21 debut, produced a fine performance full to tricks and jinking runs that had the Drogheda crowd on his feet. With McGeady is such dazzling form and the rest of the side deserving better than to be described as the 18-year-old's support, it was no surprise that Ireland ran out winners.
From the opening minutes, they set the tempo of the game and deservedly took the lead in the ninth minute when McGeady drifted in from the right and passed inside to Darren Potter who quickly played it out to Liam Kearney on the left wing. The Corkman took one touch before crossing low to Elliott who sent a raking left-foot shot past Emil Petrov from 12 yards.
The goal didn't stop Ireland pushing forward at every opportunity and Kevin Doyle and captain Glenn Whelan both close before McGeady showed his wonderful trickery in the 24th minute engineered him space on the edge of the area only for his left-foot shot to fly wide. Bulgaria hadn't offered anything in attack with their only effort of note being a 28th minute strike that went well wide though they should have drawn level in the 36th minute when Kostadin Hanurov headed just over when Zhivkov Milanov picked him unmarked three yards out.
Having escaped with the lead intact, Ireland woke up once more and they finished the half the stronger with with McGeady at the start of everything.
In the 39th minute he slipped a perfect pass through for Potter only for the Liverpool man to overrun the ball while three minutes later, his superb low cross from the right forced goalkeeper Petrov to make a fine one handed block with Elliott loitering at the back post.
However, Bulgaria were again dangerous in the second half with substitute goalkeeper Brian Murphy needing to save a Ivan Stoyanov shot in the 55th minute before Bulgaria did draw level in the 57th minute. Stoyanov was again involved as he teased Murphy off his line with a high cross only for striker Dimitr Rangelov to beat in the challenge and head it into the empty net.
Ireland continued to play with confidence though, all of a sudden, it was Bulgaria who were creating the chances with Rangelov firing narrowly wide while Paddy McCarthy needed to clear off the line after Stoyanov had beaten Murphy with a close range shot in the 69th minute. But Ireland recovered quickly and went back in front in the 71st minute when McGeady's left wing cross picked out the unmarked Tabb to power a header into the roof of the net.
Once again, Ireland failed to build on the lead allowing Bulgaria too much possession in midfield before they were eventually awarded a penalty after Sean Thornton sent Milanov tumbling just inside the box. Striker Rangelov stepped up and confidently sent Murphy the wrong way to draw the sides level though Ireland were to have the last laugh when McCarthy headed home the winner.
Republic of Ireland U21: Henderson (Notts County); McStay (Leeds United), McCarthy (Manchester City), Fitzgerald (Blackburn Rovers), Capper (Scarborough); McGeady (Celtic), Potter (Liverpool), Whelan (Manchester City), Kearney (Cork City), Elliott (Sunderland), Doyle (Cork City).
Subs: Murphy (Swansea City) for Henderson, Tabb (Brentford) for Doyle, Thornton (Sunderland) for Kearney (all half time), Flood (Manchester City) for Potter (66 mins), Kendrick (Darlington) for Capper (75 mins)
Bulgaria U21: Petrov; Diakov, Milanov, Vergilov, Venkov; Stoyanov, Palankov, Zlatinov, Trifonov; Hazurov, Rangelov.
Subs: Atanasov for Hazurov, Zakov for Trifonov (both half time), Tzenovski for Palankov (71 mins), Dimitrov for Vergilov (79 mins), Kakalov for Rangelov (87 mins) Referee: C Redmond (Scotland).