Stephen Kenny has backed Troy Parrott to have a bright future for the Republic of Ireland after the teenager scored twice to help secure his first win as manager.
The 19-year-old Tottenham striker scored his first senior international goals in a three-minute spell to haul Ireland back from a 1-0 deficit in Andorra. Late strikes from Jason Knight and substitute Daryl Horgan secured a 4-1 victory at the Estadi Nacional.
Asked about Parrott, who spent the second half of last season on loan at League One side Ipswich, Kenny said: “There is a bit of pressure when you concede a goal like that when you are in a place like that, and [have] not been on a good run.
“Troy has not had his best season but he showed a lot of character. That is sort of what I felt when I was under-21 manager [and we played] away to a very good Sweden team – Troy came into that game with it in the melting pot and got two goals. You can see his character, that ability to elevate.
“He’s still got learning and improving to do when we play against better opposition, but it just shows mentally he has the capacity to do that when it was going against us. For one so young, that was encouraging.”
Ireland suffered a rude awakening when Marc Vales headed Andorra into a 52nd-minute lead. But Parrott levelled with an angled shot six minutes later and then powered a header past Iker Álvarez.
Knight and Horgan both struck inside the final six minutes, also for the first time for their country, to end Kenny’s wait for a win at the 12th attempt.
The manager said: “We’re pleased to get our first win and I think [it’s] long overdue, of course. Confidence is an important thing and we created a lot of chances and took four of them, some very good goals.
“We understand it’s a match that the expectation is that you win it, so we’re not patting ourselves on the back. We’re just saying the players responded well from going a goal down in the second half, so credit to them.”
Northern Ireland fell to a 1-0 defeat against Ukraine. After Oleksandr Zubkov’s 10th-minute goal it looked as though the hosts might cruise to a big win but they spent much of the second half on the back foot as their opponents rallied.
Ian Baraclough fielded another strong side given the options in his squad, but two of the goalscorers from Sunday’s 3-0 win over Malta were missing, with Jordan Jones not involved and Gavin Whyte among the substitutes.
Ukraine, boosted by a change in regulations which saw 15,000 fans allowed into the Dnipro Arena, were eager to put on a show 10 days out from their opening Euro 2020 fixture against the Netherlands. Andriy Yarmolenko flashed a shot wide with only 40 seconds gone, the first of 11 first-half attempts on Bailey Peacock-Farrell’s goal.
The Burnley goalkeeper made a good save to deny Roman Yaremchuk, but Northern Ireland conceded from the resulting corner. Oleksandr Karavaev sent in a deep cross and Zubkov glided in to head home.
The chances continued to come, with Yarmolenko denied by a sliding Shane Ferguson, who got across to block as he looked to turn in Vitaliy Mykolenko’s cross.
Northern Ireland’s only real chance in response before the break came from a set-piece. Paddy McNair whipped in a free-kick but Heorhiy Bushchan tipped Ciaron Brown’s header beyond the far post.
There were brighter signs in the second half, with Josh Magennis denied by a fine block from Mykola Matviyenko before Ali McCann flashed a header wide.
McCann then sparked an excellent move, sliding the ball through to Kyle Lafferty who in turn fed Paul Smyth, although the 23-year-old could not get enough power on his shot.
Ukraine thought they had a second at the death but Artem Besedin was ruled offside, allowing Northern Ireland one last chance as McNair bent a stoppage-time free-kick wide.
In Brussels, Greece fought back to hold top-ranked Belgium to a 1-1 draw as Georgios Tzavellas’s second-half goal cancelled out an early Thorgan Hazard strike.
Belgium were missing several regulars but were still hoping to send out a message of intent. But Greece, who did not qualify for the tournament, proved dogged opponents in a feisty clash behind closed doors at the King Baudouin Stadium.
Hazard put Belgium ahead after 20 minutes but Tzavellas levelled the score midway through the second half.