Georgia rue loss of playmaker Ananidze
Published 07/09/2015 | 02:30
Just as Georgia thought their streak of bad luck against Ireland had ceased, they lose their playmaker, Jano Ananidze, to injury.
The Spartak Moscow midfielder is out of tonight's Euro qualifier after being forced to curtail his impact eight minutes from the end of Friday's 1-0 victory over Scotland in Tbilisi.
Ananidze's absence clearly showed on the face of manager Kakhaber Tskhadadze last night as his plan to further underline the benefits from his replacing of Temuri Ketsbaia at Christmas suffered a set-back.
"Our No 10 stayed behind in Tbilisi," groaned Tskhadadze. "It is very disappointing."
Added to the fortuitous penalty Ireland earned in the 2009 World Cup qualifier at a time Georgia led, and Aiden McGeady's last-gasp winner in Tbilisi a year ago, Tskhadadze has reason to think they are cursed by Ireland.
"Maybe our luck will change tomorrow," noted the manager more in hope than expectation.
The boost from beating the Scots has given Georgia an outside hope of edging third spot in Group D, yet the bigger picture of the World Cup qualifiers, when Ireland once again share their group, is the priority for Tskhadadze.
"We do have a theoretical chance of finishing third," he said. "We will try to win but the main thing is to use it for the future."
Levan Mchedlidze, described by Martin O'Neill as the "big, strong lad who led the line brilliantly against Scotland", emphasised the improvement in the squad since Tskhadadze took charge.
"There has been a dramatic change under the coach," said the Empoli striker. "We are much more of an attacking team and I think we can show against Ireland that we have improved."
O'Neill also pinpointed Tornike Okriashvili, and match-winner against the Scots Valeri Kazaishvili, as the attackers Ireland need to mind.
However, it's the Georgian's shaky defence that may provide the key for the Irish to take a stranglehold of the play-off berth from Scotland with two qualifiers remaining.
After their seven-hour flight to Dublin, coupled with the loss of their talisman, at least Tskhadadze can look forward to his 47th birthday today. "A win would be a nice present," he suggested.
If he's to engineer a second shock result in four days, Tskhadadze will have done it the hard way.