Northern Ireland have earned a place in tomorrow night’s Elite Final after a well-deserved 3-1 victory over Georgia in Ballymena last night.
Incredibly it will be a FIFTH final on the trot for the boys in green and they will meet Denmark, a side they shared a 1-1 draw with in the opening game earlier this week.
The home side always looked in control against Georgia after Seanan Clucas gave them an early lead, with Matthew Ball and Neil Dougan adding to their advantage in the second half, either side of Varlami Kilasonia’s goal.
Northern Ireland boss Steve Beaglehole is without a number of key players who qualify for the under 20 age level — most notably Josh Carson, who was recently capped at senior level — and is on record as saying this is the youngest squad he has brought to the tournament.
Beaglehole’s young guns started very brightly and secured an early lead through Dungannon lad Clucas.
The Preston midfielder was the man to nod the hosts ahead when he met Chris Hegarty’s precision free-kick from the right flank, his header hitting the back of the net via the post from 12 yards out.
Soon afterwards Ipswich frontman Caolan Lavery had a penalty appeal waved away after going down under a strong challenge from Achil Tvildiani inside the box.
With 20 minutes on the clock the Georgians’ woodwork was rattling once again, however the ball didn’t hit the back of the net on this occasion as Lavery’s header came back off the crossbar.
As the half wore on Northern Ireland increased the pressure in search of the cushion a second goal would have given them.
Typical of the neat football they were playing in the final third at this stage, was the last chance of the half which fell to Monday night’s goalscorer Matthew Ball.
He exchanged passes with strike partner Lavery and looked to have received the ball back in an offside position.
However the linesman kept his flag down and Ball attempted a delicate lob but goalkeeper Legashvili won the battle and gathered the ball in mid-air.
It was Georgia who came out of the blocks quicker after the break and substitute Buba Rukhadze somehow managed to volley over from just 10 yards with the goal at his mercy.
The next goal arrived with 20 minutes remaining as Ball notched his second of the tournament and, crucially, his country’s second of the match.
Picking the ball up outside the box he drilled an effort from 18 yards past Legashvili who got a touch but could not prevent it ending up in the bottom right hand corner of his goal.
Georgia thought they had thrown themselves a lifeline with four minutes on the clock when Varlami Kilasonia volleyed home from inside the box, despite a strong hint of offside when he received the ball.
However, it mattered little when Northern Ireland added the goal of the night straight from the restart.
Francis McCaffrey did well on the right to feed substitute Dougan and the Linfield man composed himself before sweeping the ball across the goalkeeper and into the bottom right corner of the net.
In the dying stages of the game Georgia almost struck for a consolation, but Wayne Drummond showed excellent reactions to tip the ball away to safety from a Clucas miscue.
Elsewhere in the Elite Section last year’s finalists USA could only manage a 1-1 draw with old rivals Mexico, while Denmark earned their place in the final courtesy of a 3-1 win against Israel.