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More home nations minutes for Reading pair

29 March 2016

A round-up of our internationals’ matches

Reading twosome Chris Gunter and Oliver Norwood were once again in action for their countries on Easter Monday, representing Wales and Northern Ireland respectively.

The Royals duo had been on opposite sides of the teamsheet when the two home nations clashed in South Wales last Thursday – and their preparations continued with Wales’ trip to face Ukraine in Kyiv and Slovenia’s visit to meet Northern Ireland in Belfast.

Both games were decided by just the one goal.  In the earlier kick-off, it was Ukrainian Andriy Yarmalenko – the Dynamo Kyiv forward playing in his home stadium – who sprung the offside trap to score the only goal of the game against Wales shortly before the half-hour, and ultimately condemning the Dragons to a friendly defeat.  Hal Robson-Kanu had been absent for the international friendlies through injury, but Chris Gunter once again played the 90 minutes for Wales.

A little later on Monday afternoon, Oliver Norwood also played from start to end at Windsor Park and helped the Ulstermen to an unprecedented 10th game without defeat against their Slovenian visitors.  As the first half wound towards a close, Conor Washington bulldozed his way through before firing past Jan Oblak.  Milivoje Novakovic had a chance to level midway through the second period, after Jonny Evans conceded a penalty, but Roy Carroll’s spot-kick save ensured a clean sheet.

On Good Friday, Michael Hector represented Jamaica in Kingston as their World Cup qualifiers continued against Costa Rica; Garath McCleary was an unused sub, and former Royals Jobi McAnuff and Adrian Mariappa also played the duration.  Hec was part of a defence charged with shackling the likes of Joel Campbell and Bryan Ruiz – they held out until the 67th minute, when defender Johnny Acosta finally struck for the visitors.  That goal was Costa Rica’s equaliser; New England Revolution forward Je-Vaughan Watson had opened for the Reggae Boyz in the first half as it ended 1-1.  The nations will play a return match in San José in the small hours of Wednesday morning.

Earlier that afternoon, and back in Europe, Stephen Quinn made his first Ireland appearance for over six months, having missed out on other recent squads with injury.  The midfielder got the nod to start and played for an hour in Dublin, while countryman and fellow Royal Paul McShane remained on the bench.  The game looked like it might have been goal-laden when Aston Villa defender Ciaran Clark struck an opener past Switzerland with less than two minutes on the clock, but that was to be the game’s only goal.  Slovakia provide their next friendly opposition at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday.

Reading also had four players on the park for Ireland Under-21 when they met their Slovenian counterparts in Koper on Monday.  Three of the back four were Reading players – Niall Keown, Shane Griffin and Sean Long – while 17-year-old Josh Barrett made his debut at that age-group from the bench for the final 15 minutes.  Their hopes of reaching Euro 2017 took a hit, however, as the hosts ran out 3-1 winners – Oxford forward Callum O’Dowda hit Ireland’s goal.  They now face Scotland on Tuesday.

Defender Jake Cooper represented England Under-20 in a pair of fixtures over Easter; Keith Downing’s Young Lions faced opposition from Canada in a double-header.  He debuted at that age-group from the bench in a behind-closed-doors friendly, in which England were 4-1 winners.  But in front of a 3,264-strong crowd at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium on Sunday, it was the visitors that came out 2-1 winners in a friendly fixture.  Cooper played the full 90, but goals by Kadin Chung and Marco Bastos either side of half-time meant that Chelsea midfielder Kasey Palmer’s 71st-minute strike was merely a consolation.

A 3-0 defeat to hosts Croatia in Rijeka on Good Friday meant that Zak Jules, who played the full fixture for Scotland Under-19, would not be going to the European Under-19 Championships this summer; they had lost to Belgium in their opening of three round-robin fixtures earlier in the weekend, so two defeats ensured there would be no passage to the finals stage.  However they ended on a high with a win against Bulgaria on their return to Kostrena on Easter Monday – Jules played an hour in a 2-1 win.

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