Brady's late goal fires Ireland into last 16
By Philip O'Connor
LILLE, France (Reuters) - Robbie Brady scored a glorious late winner for Ireland to put them through to the knockout stages of the European Championship for the first time thanks to a 1-0 win over Group E winners Italy.
Brady scored his 85th minute headed goal from a pinpoint cross by his Norwich City clubmate Wes Hoolahan, who had just spurned a golden opportunity to seal the well-deserved victory himself.
It earned the Irish a famous victory against a second-string Italy side, with the three points securing third place in the group and setting up a last-16 tie against hosts France in Lyon on Sunday.
With his team already guaranteed to top the group, Antonio Conte made eight changes, with only Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Alessandro Florenzi surviving from the side that started against Sweden.
The Irish began like a team on a mission, full back Seamus Coleman thundering into a tackle in the opening seconds to lay down a marker, and plenty of tough challenges from both sides followed.
Ireland almost took an early lead when Jeff Hendrick sinked to create some space at the edge of the box and hit a left-footed piledriver that flew just wide of the top corner.
In the 21st minute, Daryl Murphy met Brady's outswinging corner with a powerful header, forcing Salvatore Sirigu to make a flying save and tip the ball over the bar for another corner.
Italy had to wait until just before halftime for their first decent chance, Ciro Immobile dragging his shot just wide after a well-worked short free kick. Continued...