Thursday, September 10, 2015


Republic of Ireland 1 Georgia 0 

Martin O’Neill’s side did just about enough here to sustain their hopes of a place at next summer’s European Championships although the cream of the continent’s game may look at the game and feel that Ireland’s performance makes a pretty poor case for having expanded the tournament.
Jon Walters wins it for Ireland
The goal that won it, to be fair, was a little bit special with Jeff Hendrick doing extraordinarily well to tee up Jon Walters for his seventh international goal and there might well have been another with Shane Long passing up a good chance before James McClean forced a fine save but it mattered little really. But for extended stretches, predominantly in the first half, the home side again looked average.
Ultimately, the points were secured and thanks to the result in Glasgow, a win in Warsaw will now be enough to guarantee Ireland a play-off spot with favourable results before having the potential to make that trip to Poland even more rewarding.
 How much confidence this would generate that Ireland can raise their game against the Germans or Poles, though, is open to question.
For this, a game that simply had to be won, O’Neill made just one change to the side that started in Gibraltar, bringing back Seamus Coleman for Cyrus Christie, but by half-time he was looking to freshen it up further with Long on for Robbie Keane when a couple of others might have considered themselves fortunate to get a second chance.
The half had been another of those when Irish supporters must have been tempted to give up hope that their side might ever completely dominate a game against supposedly weaker opponents. The locals played in fits and starts but were matched for possession and passing by a Georgia side whose brightest attacking midfielders, Valeri Kazaishvili and Tornike Okriashvili, ran at defenders with at least as much purpose as any of their Irish counterparts could muster.
Levan Mchedlidze was about their brightest star against Scotland but he will not want to remember the way he scuffed his shot when clear through on Shay Given early on, although the most that was actually required of the goalkeeper was a quick bit of footwork and a cool pass under pressure after he initially lost control of a straight-forward back pass.
The shot wasn’t Georgia’s only chance; Okriashvili, in particular, showed a capacity to cause the Irish central defenders problems, but it was to prove their best and it would have interesting to see how the home side might have coped with having to come from behind.
As it was, their concern remained taking the lead and they made terribly heavy weather of that. Wes Hoolahan and Robbie Brady both tended to be involved in Ireland’s better moves and each had a hand in the neat build-up to a chance that Keane fired over after chesting down just seven minutes in. But it was another half an hour before somebody produced a shot that seriously tested Nukri Revishvili, with Coleman taking a touch to control a partially cleared Hoolahan cross before letting fly at the top right corner.
There was one particularly impressive spell around then when Glenn Whelan seemed to take it upon himself to start driving the team forward through the middle but it didn’t last. When briefly the visitors struggled hopelessly to clear the ball from their own area it seemed to suggest a potentially fatal weakness that would cost them later, the problem being that the clumsy efforts of the Irish to punish them as the ball bobbled around, prompted much the same thought about the hosts.
In the end, having fallen back far too often on long balls thumped in the direction of Walters when nothing else worked, Ireland went in for the break level, which was certainly as much as they deserved.
The improvement after it eventually led to the goal and while the improvement was not dramatic or immediate,there was a sense that Ireland had now acquired some urgency and were using it to build some momentum. A latecomer would, at least, have guessed at this stage which side was at home and hoping to go to the European Championships.
There was a downside. Both Whelan and s McClean picked up pointless bookings that will keep them out of the Germany game but at least the Georgians started to look like they were feeling the heat.
Still it took a moment of individual brilliance to create a goal that had more than a hint of Ireland’s in Gelsenkirchen about it. Hendrick, as he had done that night, produced a moment of magic to, on this occasion, weave his way past three defenders before squaring the ball for Walters who got between two players to turn it home from a yard or two out.
Long really should have made it two eight minutes later when Whelan passed up the opportunity to run on and shoot, preferring instead to lay the ball off to McClean who did well with his cross, but the striker tried to flick home and missed the ball completely. McClean then struck a fierce shot that Revishvili saved well.
The Irish started to cruise, a dangerous game in the circumstances against a team that was better than we had hoped, but their cause was helped by a hamstring injury to Mchedlidze that forced the striker off after the Kakhaber Tskaridze has used all his substitutions.
The final minutes slipped by until Ireland had, once again, done what they needed to but, as ever, not in the way they had hoped.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Given (Stoke City); Coleman (Everton), O’Shea (Sunderland), Clark (Aston Villa), Brady (Norwich City); McCarthy (Everton), Whelan (Stoke City), Hoolahan (Norwich City), Hendrick (Derby County); Walters (Stoke City), Keane (LA Galaxy).
Subs: Long (Southampton) for Keane (half-time), McClean (West Brom) for Hoolahan (75 mins).

GEORGIA: Revishvili; Lobjanidze, Kvirkvelia, Amisulashvili, Khizanishvili; Kashia, Kankava; Kazaishvili, Okriashvili, Navalovsky; Mchedlidze.
Subs: Papunashvili for Kazaishvili (64 mins), Tsintsadze for Kashia (76 mins), Kenia for Khizanishvili (81 mins).

Referee: István Vad (Hungary).

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