Serbia and Montenegro earned a place at the UEFA European Under-17 Championship finals in Luxembourg after a comprehensive victory against a Republic of Ireland team eventually reduced to eight men.
Pool hosts Ireland topped Elite round Group 6 on goal difference from Israel at kick-off, and as Avraham Bahar's side lost 3-1 to eliminated Romania tonight a point would have been enough for Sean McCaffrey’s side. But in front of a crowd of nearly 3,000 at Tolka Park, they never recovered from conceding a second-minute goal to Stefan Jovetic.
Despite pushing hard, Ireland were having few chances, and their hopes began to fade when Garry Breen was sent off just after the half-hour for a professional foul on Goran Cetnik. Early in the second half Irish substitute Paul Cahillane forced Marko Kneževic to save, but Ireland were down to nine men in the 53rd minute when Harry Arter received a second booking for kicking the ball away after play had been stopped.
The Irish were still pushing forward, but inevitably holes appeared at the back, and with nine minutes to go they were exploited twice in 60 seconds, as Velijko Vukovic first shot in from distance and then set up Jovetic for his second of the night. A Graham Carey foul earned him Ireland's third red card near the end.
It was a fine recovery from Serbia and Montenegro, whose Elite round campaign on Monday had opened with a last-gasp defeat by Israel, and they now enter Thursday's draw and then the finals from 3-14 May. McCaffrey said: "When you lose one man against a quality team, you're in bother but to lose to two and then three is very hard to deal with."
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