20.11.2007 at 19:00 Lissywoollen, Athlone
Referee: Jerome Laperriere (Switzerland).
European Qualifier / PROG-match
Joe O Cearuill
Darren O Dea
Jim O Brien
UEFA 2009 Under-21 Championship Qualifier
Lissywoolen Stadium, Athlone
Republic of Ireland 1-0 Bulgaria
Tuesday 21 November 2007
The Republic of Ireland Under-21 beat Bulgaria tonight in Athlone to earn their first points of their UEFA Championship Group 3 campaign.
John-Joe O’Toole scored a dramatic late winner to seal victory and move Don Givens’ side off the bottom of the table.
Eddie Nolan set up the goal, sending an excellent cross into the box from the right wing and O’Toole escaped his marker to head past the goalkeeper from close range.
It looked like another frustrating night was in store for Ireland as they lacked the cutting edge in front of goal.
Joe O’Cearuill of Barnet was on the end of the hosts’ best opening of the first half during stoppage time.
Anthony Stokes curled a free-kick into the penalty area where a Bulgarian defender, under pressure from Ireland striker Adam Rooney, diverted the ball onto his own post.
The rebound fell perfectly for the unmarked O’Cearuill but he blasted his shot over the crossbar from six yards with the goal at his mercy.
Sunderland striker Stokes also created the opportunity for Stephen Quinn to break the deadlock on 13 minutes.
He teed up the midfielder with a cross from the right and the Sheffield United man saw his looping volley tipped around the post for a corner by Bulgarian goalkeeper Nikolay Mihylov.
Local lad Alan Sheehan had the first chance of substance in the match after 9 minutes, hitting a long-range shot from 25 yards which was palmed away by Mihylov.
Bulgaria rarely threatened Darren Quigley in the Irish goal and apart from a couple of shots by Vladimir Gadzhev early in the second half, it was mainly one-way traffic from Ireland.
Stokes forced an excellent save from Mihylov on 83 minutes, as O’Toole entered the fray as a substitute for Stephen Quinn.
And the 19-year old waited until the dying seconds to produce a telling intervention and secure a vital three points for the Irish.
Manager Don Givens said: “We got what we deserved tonight. We got the breaks we hadn’t been getting in other games.
“The game got stretched in the final 20 minutes and we sent John-Joe on to steady things in midfield.
“It was a great moment for JJ; he’s been brilliant since he came in for this double-header. He met the squad for the first time before the Montenegro game on Friday and I’m delighted for him.
Givens added: “He didn’t have the best of debuts on Friday; he gave the ball away in the lead-up to their goal but tonight he’s more than made up for that.”
Republic of Ireland: Darren Quigley (UCD), Eddie Nolan (Blackburn Rovers), Conor Powell (Bohemians), Joe O’Cearuill (Barnet), Darren O’Dea (Celtic), Stephen Gleeson (Wolves), Alan Sheehan (Leicester City), Stephen Quinn (Sheffield Utd), Jim O’Brien (Celtic), Adam Rooney (Chesterfield), Anthony Stokes (Sunderland).
Subs: Connor Sammon (UCD) for Rooney (73 mins), JJ O’Toole (Watford) for Quinn (83 mins) and Aidan Downes (Everton) for O’Brien (88 mins)
Bulgaria: Nikolay Mihylov, Nikolay Bodurov, Ivan Ivanov, Nikolay Dimitrov, Ivan Bandalovski, Lachezar Baltanov, Nikolay Petrov, Atanas Fidanin, Valeri Domovchiyski, Vladimir Gadzhev, Ivelin Popov.
Subs: Dani Kiki for Popov (46 mins), Atanas Kurdov for Baltanov (73 mins) and Orlin Starokin for Nikolay Petrov (90 mins).