Irish U21 boss Jim Crawford believes a sneering comment from an Italian player sparked the post-match bust-up at the end of Ireland’s pulsating Euros encounter in Cork tonight.A last minute equaliser from Wilfried Gnonto helped Italy secure a 2-2 draw before the two sets of players engaged in a sustained shoving match, after an Italian sub taunted an Irish player about the scoreline.
Crawford downplayed the incident, saying: “Yes, something was said but it was an injury-time equaliser and emotions are high. I don't think it was anything sinister. What happened afterwards (when up to 20 players were embroiled in a shoving match) was just handbags really."
Read MoreIreland 2-2 Italy, score recap, reaction and result from U21 Euro qualifying action
An added piece of controversy stems from the fact that Gnonto’s equaliser came on 95 minutes and 20 seconds even though the fourth official had indicated that there would be just five additional minutes.Crawford said: “The fourth official said to me that when we made a substitute in added time, they added on another minute.
“And by the way I thought it was a foul on Killian (Phillips) as well before they scored.
“We didn’t get the free and really if you are being blunt, we got one point from two games - we left two behind us there tonight - and against Norway we were comfortable, winning 2-1. It is a tough one to take because from the day we came in, the boys bought into everything we said.
“It is a bitter blow. That is how cruel football can be at times.
“We will be okay, I guarantee you. We will dust ourselves down before we take on San Marino in March. This is a fantastic group of players who will go far in this group.”
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