Wednesday 18 October 2017

Atrocious Ireland blessed to emerge from Georgia with a draw

Georgia 1 Republic of Ireland 1

Shane Long, right of Republic of Ireland reacts after his header goes wide during the FIFA World Cup Qualifier Group D match between Georgia and Republic of Ireland at Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena in Tbilisi, Georgia. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile
Shane Long, right of Republic of Ireland reacts after his header goes wide during the FIFA World Cup Qualifier Group D match between Georgia and Republic of Ireland at Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena in Tbilisi, Georgia. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile

Aidan Fitzmaurice, Tbilisi

IRELAND'S run of good luck came to a stinging end in Tbilisi as Georgia, for the first time in nine meetings, avoided defeat in a clash with the Republic but Martin O'Neill's side were very fortunate to come away from Tbilisi with anything.

This 1-1 draw gives Ireland a point to keep them in second place in the Group D table, Martin O'Neill's men now two points behind Serbia who did the business with a clinical 3-0 home win over Moldova tonight.

The point was not deserved by the away side who looked ragged for long spells, Georgia at times playing the opposition off the park.

The sheer lack of quality from Ireland is very worrying as a in-form Serbia visit Dublin on Sunday, and the only, tiny, consolation is that Ireland remain unbeaten in the group,and a repeat performance against Serbia would inevitably result in a loss and leave the Republic fighting for a play-off place at best.

The other nugget of positive news for O'Neill was that the players already on a yellow card avoided a further booking in Tbilisi, James McClean the only one cautioned, so O'Neill has a full squad to pick from against Serbia, though changes have to be expected.

It had started so well for O'Neill's team when Shane Duffy marked the occasion of his 12th senior cap to score his first international goal.

It was a sloppy one from the viewpoint of the home side as keeper Giorgi Makaridze flapped in the air when Cyrus Christie floated in a free kick and Duffy got his head to it.

That's as good as it got for the Republic, who barely threatened Makaridze's goal after that, though James McClean should really have done better, and hit the target at least, when he got a free header in the box from a Jon Walters cross in the 20th minute.

Georgia recovered well from the loss of that goal, piled the pressure on the away side and got a deserved goal on 34 minutes, Jano Ananidze - who was the best player on the field and bossed the midfield despite his small stature - setting up Valeri Kaziashvili.

They threatened again, Nika Kvekveskiri forcing a save from Randolph and Giorgi Kvitalia brushing past Stephen Ward with ease.

It took Ireland until the 69th minute to come up with anything approaching a passage of play, as Cyrus Christie and James McClean combined to set up a chance for Long, but his headed effort was off target.

Aiden McGeady was given half an hour off the bench to try and summon up something like his match-winning feat in Tbilisi three years ago but he was unable to make a real impact, fellow sub Daryl Murphy getting in a header with his first touch after he replaced Glenn Whelan.

Georgia, meanwhile, kept the ball and used it well, sub Giorgi Merebashvili going very, very close with a good shot a minute from time while, in injury time, McGeady fired over the bar.

So Ireland get the point which keeps them relevant in the World Cup race, but the home side deserved far more.

GEORGIA: Makaridze; Kakabadze, Kvirklevia, Kashia (cap), Navalovski; Gvilia, Kvekveskiri; Jighauri (Chantuira, 75), Ananidze, Kaziashvili (Khocholava, 90); Kvitalia (Merebashvili, 85).

IRELAND: Randolph; Christie, Duffy, Clark, Ward; Whelan (Murphy, 78), Arter (McGeady, 61); Walters, Brady, McClean, Long.

REFEREE: Ivan Kruzliak.

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