A remarkable goal from Liam Kelly helped the Republic of Ireland finish first in UEFA European Under-19 Championship qualifying round Group 3, hosts Sweden also joining them in the elite round.
The Reading FC midfielder scored against the Swedes on matchday two from just inside the opposing half and, with only seven minutes left when Kelly struck, his effort ultimately proved enough to take Ireland through. "The goal was absolutely unbelievable and I instantly thought of David Beckham," coach Paul Doolin told the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) website. "Liam picked it up on the halfway line, looked up and let fly. For a guy of his size, he has great technique."
That 1-0 win on Saturday, combined with a 2-0 opening success against Azerbaijan and a 1-1 draw with Bosnia and Herzegovina in today's final set of matches, ensured the 2011 semi-finalists reached the elite round again. "It is absolutely fantastic we managed to win the group," said Doolin. "It was tough and to win it with seven points is just amazing. Maybe we are a bit lucky as all the matches have been tight, but I am absolutely thrilled for the guys."
Sweden had hat-trick hero Muamer Tankovic, of Fulham FC, to thank for their 4-1 victory over the Bosnians on Thursday – the forward's parents come from Bosnia and Herzegovina – and bounced back from their Ireland disappointment to wrap up second place with a comfortable 5-1 triumph against Azerbaijan in which all five home goals came from corners. Bosnia and Herzegovina came third with two points having drawn 0-0 with Azerbaijan on matchday two.
The elite round will take place in the spring.
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