Lille (France) | Robbie Brady struck with just five minutes remaining as the Republic of Ireland claimed a dramatic 1-0 win over Italy in Lille on Wednesday to reach the knockout phase of Euro 2016.
Brady’s goal arrived just when it looked as if Ireland were heading out due to a combination of Italy goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu and Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan.
Ireland had to win the match at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy against an Italian side already assured of first place in Group E and got the win they needed to set up a last-16 tie against hosts France.
Before Brady struck, Sirigu, standing in for Gianluigi Buffon in the Italian goal, made a superb save to deny Daryl Murphy while Hategan twice waved away Irish penalty appeals in the first half.
It’s what dreams are made of. We have done the job for everyone who came to see us and all the Irish fans around the world, said Brady.
It is a proud night for myself and fantastic for the team.
Coach Martin O’Neill made four changes to the side that lost 3-0 to Belgium last weekend in Bordeaux as Ireland looked for their first win over Italy in a competitive match since the 1994 World Cup in the United States.
James McClean and Daryl Murphy started while it was all change in central defence with Richard Keogh and Shane Duffy chosen to partner one another.
With top spot in the group sewn up and with one eye on their last-16 tie against Spain next Monday, Italy coach Antonio Conte made eight changes to his side.
The lack of rhythm of what was essentially an Italian B team played into the hands of Ireland, who came out of the traps flying, adrenaline pumping and with a vast support behind them.
The roof was closed at the stadium, a decision which had the effect of raising the noise levels but also helped to protect a shocking pitch from further deteriorating before it is replaced for the knockout rounds.
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