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Troy Parrott and Moise Kean were sent off as the Republic of Ireland and Italy produced a scoreless stalemate at Tallaght Stadium.
The record crowd of 7,231 in Tallaght were treated to an entertaining Euro 2020 qualifier, in a game which saw Stephen Kenny’s team go toe-to-toe with the five-time European champions.
Ireland still remain on course to qualify for next year’s tournament, and are still in top place in the group ahead of their upcoming trip to Iceland.
The Boys in Green entered the clash in a rich vein of form, having recorded wins against Luxembourg, Armenia and Sweden in their previous three Group 1 games.
Both sides had chances to find the back of the net in a game which proved that this exciting Ireland team justify the considerable hype around them.
Italy – who smashed Luxembourg 5-0 in their first group game – made the brighter start, dominating possession in the opening exchanges in Dublin.
Gianluca Scamacca curled a free kick narrowly wide for the visitors, but there remained little in terms of clear cut chances until the 17th minute, when Andrea Pinamonti headed just wide from Luca Pellegrini’s cross.
At the other end, the returning Connor Ronan stung the palms of Italy ‘keeper Marco Carnesecchi with a powerful strike following good work from Jayson Molumby and the excellent Adam Idah.
There was a feisty edge to the game, with Molumby, Ronan and Tonali all booked before half time for a coming together after Molumby elected to kick a ball out of play rather than back to Carnesecchi after a break in play.
Italy, seeking a breakthrough, introduced Premier League duo Kean and Patrick Cutrone (Wolves) at the interval.
Parrott flashed a low shot narrowly wide early in the second half after Zach Elbouzedi’s cross and a clever backheel from Idah.
Liverpool ‘keeper Caoimhin Kelleher was then forced to tip Claud Adjapong’s powerful shot behind for a corner in the 56th minute.
The main talking point occurred in the 63rd minute when both sides were reduced to 10 men.
Parrott was shown a second yellow card in an incident which also saw Everton striker Kean receive a straight red.
Kean was given his marching orders for pushing Parrott, with an incredulous Parrott then receiving a second caution for his role in the clash.
The Spurs striker had already been booked in the first half for a reckless challenge on Italy’s Sandro Tonali.
64: RED CARD!
Ireland U21s 0-0 Italy U21s.
Italy’s Moise Kean is shown a straight red card for pushing Troy Parrott, but the Tottenham forward is then shown a second yellow card for his own role in the incident.#IRLU21 #U21EURO pic.twitter.com/gEVRYkyKSA
— eir Sport (@eirSport) October 10, 2019
The hosts almost snatched all three points late on when captain Molumby’s free kick was tipped over the bar by Carnesecchi.
“It was a extraordinary game really,” Kenny told RTÉ Sport afterwards.
“There’s a definite feeling of disappointment in the dressing room which shows you how far the players have come in such a short space of time. We’ve played one of the top two teams in Europe and we’re disappointed not to win.
“That was a real international match. There was an edge to every tackle.”
Next up for Ireland is a trip to Iceland on Tuesday.