Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland U17s: Failure to award penalty 'key to defeat'

By Stuart McKinley

Paul Kee last night hit out at Swedish referee Martin Strombergsson as his Northern Ireland under-17 team prepares to jump from the frying pan into the fire.

Kee’s youngster’s went down 3-2 to England on Saturday in the opening game of their qualifying group at the Elite stage of the Uefa Under-17 Championship in Belgium.

The challenge gets even tougher for the Northern Ireland youngsters tonight, when they go up against reigning European champions Spain.

Shay McCartan had given Northern Ireland the lead five minutes before half-time, but an England equaliser seconds before the break was the first of three goals in a nine-minute spell.

McCartan pulled one back with a penalty with 15 minutes to go however he was denied the chance to equalise from the spot by the referee.

“England are a good attacking unit, but they are vulnerable at the back and when we brought it back to 3-2 we put a bit of pressure on them,” said Kee.

“We had a good shout for a penalty and after watching the game again on DVD the defender definitely handled the ball, but the referee for some reason decided not to give it after giving us a penalty shortly before.

“A 3-3 draw would have been a great result.”

Kee is now ready for a step-up in class against Spain — who beat England to take the crown a year ago — after their 3-1 win against Belgium.

“Spain are something else. They are exceptional,” he said.

“We watched their game against Belgium after our game and while the Belgians are a good team and took the lead, they were worn down by a better team.

“The Spanish have a lad called Gerard Deulofeu who is at Barcelona. He trains with the first-team and been chased by Chelsea and Liverpool.

“That’s the level of player that we’re up against. They have a list of players who are with Real Madrid and Barcelona.

“We are much more ready for this game now after the experience of facing England.

“There’s a fine balance between trying to give the players enough information about the opposition and putting fear into them. I think we’ve got it right.”

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