Slovakia 2 Northern Ireland 1
A late penalty condemned the Northern Ireland Under-21s to a 2-1 defeat in their Euro 2023 qualifier away to Slovakia yesterday.
Jakub Kadak scored from the spot in the 86th minute after Ethan Galbraith committed a foul in the penalty area.
Slovakia had led through Matej Trusa’s first-half strike before Carl Johnston levelled for the visitors just after the hour.
Northern Ireland had been hoping to do the double over Slovakia after last September’s 1-0 win in Mourneview Park — a win would have moved them level on points with their hosts in Group C — but they were outplayed in Zilina.
Slovakia had 17 efforts on goal compared to only six for Northern Ireland, and immediately had John Schofield’s side under pressure with Roland Galcik and Adrian Kapralik going close early on.
Jan Barnet then hit a post and the pressure told in the 37th minute when Trusa beat Ollie Webber with a neat finish to find the back of the net.
Shea Charles went close for Northern Ireland early in the second half and they levelled when Johnston was on hand to turn in Chris McKee’s cut-back from close range.
Northern Ireland went close to taking the lead late on in the game when Aaron Donnelly met Galbraith’s free-kick, but he was denied by Lubomir Belko, and Slovakia punished them moments later by grabbing the winner from the penalty spot.
Northern Ireland could not mount a response in the time that remained in the match, with Webber needing to prevent Tomas Bobcek from adding to the score.
Schofield’s side now head to Calais for Monday’s friendly against France — a fixture that replaced the cancelled qualifier against Russia, whose international teams are banned following the invasion of Ukraine.
Northern Ireland U21s: O Webber, S Stewart, A Donnelly, K Balmer, S Charles, C McCann, C Johnston, E Galbraith (captain), D Taylor, A McCalmont, C McKee.
Substitutes: (used) J Scott, J McGovern, I Price, B Baggley; (unused) D Berry (GK), S McClelland, O Smyth, F Cousin-Dawson, R McCausland.
Slovakia U21s: L Belko, I Mesik (captain), T Nemcik, A Obert, S Sul’a, F Lichy, J Bernat, R Galcik, A Kapralik, J Kadak. M Trusa.
Substitutes: I Krajcirik (GK), G Tumma, S Nebyla, M Svidersky, P Il’ko, A Tucny, T Bobcek, M Vojtko, K Mihalek.
Referee: V Kastrati (Kosovo)
Man of the match: Kadak
Match rating: 7/10