Republic of Ireland’s World Cup ambitions already look to be in major doubt, as Stephen Kenny’s team fell to a shock 1-0 defeat at home to Luxembourg.
The hosts were unable to find a breakthrough against their Group A opponents at the Aviva Stadium.
As Ireland poured forward in search of a winner, they were stunned by an 85th-minute strike from Gerson Rodrigues, after a long ball fell to the Dynamo Kyiv midfielder. He drilled a low shot into the bottom corner from the outside of the box to seal the victory.
The result leaves Ireland without any points after two games in the World Cup qualifying campaign.
Republic of Ireland: Bazunu (7), Coleman (7), O’Shea (6), Clark (5), Stevens (6), Doherty (5), Knight (5), , Browne (6), Cullen (5), Collins (6), Robinson (6)
Subs: Brady (6), McClean (5), Long (5), Molumby (N/A), Parrott (N/A)
Luxembourg: Moris (7), Chanot (7), Mahmutovic (6), C Martins (6), Sinani (6), Rodrigues (8), V Thill (8), O Thill (7), Barreiro (6), Jans (6), M Martins (6)
Subs: Deville (6), Krogh Gerson (N/A)
Man of the match: Gerson Rodrigues
Ireland hit with late sucker punch
With Gavin Bazunu making his senior international debut in goal for Ireland, the visitors looked to test the 19-year-old early on, as Vincent Thill took a shot from outside the box, to which the Rochdale shot-stopper was equal.
Indeed, the teenager looked composed throughout his debut, with accurate distribution and assured in the air.
- Gavin Bazunu made his senior international debut in goal, replacing Mark Travers who played against Serbia midweek. Jason Knight replaced Jayson Molumby in midfield, while James Collins came in for the injured Aaron Connolly up front.
Luxembourg more than held their own in the opening exchanges and settled quicker than their hosts.
However, Kenny’s team sprung to life in the 18th minute, as an excellent team move led to Enda Stevens releasing Callum Robinson down the left wing. The West Brom forward put in an inviting low cross which found James Collins. But the striker was unable to beat Anthony Moris in the Luxembourg goal.
That was as close as either team came in the first half. Although Robinson looked a constant threat on the left, Ireland were unable to make any further significant inroads.
Luxembourg nearly took the lead after 41 minutes, when Rodrigues spotted Bazunu off his line. However, the goalkeeper scrambled back to parry away what looked like a well-executed lob.
Ireland started the second half brightly. Substitute Robbie Brady had an immediate impact, marauding down the left wing within seconds. However, his cut-back was intercepted by the Luxembourg defence. Robinson then took on a speculative shot from outside the box, but it went too high.
Olivier Thill tried to catch Bazunu off-guard from a free-kick, but the young keeper had the goal covered as he watched the tame shot fly wide.
Alan Browne then had a golden opportunity to score in the 55th minute, as he found himself unmarked underneath the delivery of a Brady free-kick. However, he was unable to steer his attempt on target.
Bazunu was called into action by Vincent Thill once more, but Ireland were doing most of the attacking after the break.
Kenny encouraged his team to press further forward, replacing Ciaran Clark with James McClean. Chances continued to come and go. Collins attempted a spectacular overhead kick in the 70th minute, but his acrobatic effort went just wide.
Shane Long, sprung from the bench, was the next Irishman to get a sight on goal. But the experienced striker was unable to generate sufficient power on his header to trouble Moris.
Republic of Ireland continued to pry, but no breakthrough was forthcoming.
As the hosts flooded forward, a long ball fell to Rodrigues whose excellent low shot from outside the box nestled into the bottom corner.
It was a killer blow that rocked the home side, and despite a late barrage on the Luxembourg goal, Ireland were unable to find an equaliser.
Analysis: There has to be an inquisition
Former Republic of Ireland defender Phil Babb told Sky Sports:
“It feels raw but the more you look at it, it’s not unexpected. The team has been struggling. Yes, we’re trying to create a new style of play for Irish football, and there’s glimpses of it when it’s nice and they’re playing through the thirds.
“But when they get into that final third, there’s no creative spark whatsoever and that worries me. We couldn’t repeat the good patterns of play. We had one or two attempts and the rest were half chances, which just isn’t good enough against that type of opposition.
“There has to be an inquisition, to be honest. I was never happy with the way Stephen Kenny’s appointment was announced. Mick McCarthy had a European Championship qualifying campaign to go through and yet his successor was already known for in two years’ time. That didn’t sit well with me. There’s been this outcry to be fashionable and for the side to play free-flowing football, but you need the players who are confident to do that.
“We’ve seen Ireland try it, and it’s just not working. We don’t have the players to drop deep, on the turn, to try the killer passes. The confidence is just ebbing away from them. The players seemed anxious. I would say to a certain point yes [you write off Qatar 2022]. It’s going to be extremely difficult now to qualify. I think now you’ve got to look as far ahead as 2024.”
What Stephen Kenny said…
Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny told Sky Sports: “I’m not shocked, but I’m very disappointed. It’s not acceptable to lose in the manner that we did. After playing so well against Serbia, we come here at home, and it’s a game we’re well capable of winning so it’s very disappointing.
“We know that Luxembourg are vastly improved. We had seen their games against Ukraine and Serbia, and they pushed both teams very closely. So, we didn’t underestimate Luxembourg.
“Anything I say would be deemed as an excuse. We have a lot of players not playing. A second game in three days was just too much for them in terms of fitness-wise for a few. We made some changes, but it’s just not good enough from our point of view, from my point of view as a manager, and the players. We can’t be happy with it. It’s very disappointing to lose at home, and we just have to dust ourselves down. It’s not good enough.
“Certainly, Luxembourg contained a lot of what we did. But we had four or five good chances and we showed a lack of composure in our finishing. But we should be creating more chances than we did to be honest.”
Man of the match: Gerson Rodrigues
The Dynamo Kyiv midfielder came up with the big moment late in the game to seal a famous victory for Luxembourg. But he was a constant threat throughout the game, with his attempted lob in the first half forcing Gavin Bazunu into an impressive save.
A physical presence for the visitors throughout the contest.
Live International Football
Tuesday 30th March 7:40pm
Both teams are in action again on Tuesday evening. Ireland travel to Debrecen, Hungary to face World Cup hosts Qatar in a friendly. Luxembourg meanwhile will host Group A top seeds Portugal.
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