Monday 18 December 2017

Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill remains grounded after beating Moldova

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill saw his side beat Moldova on Sunday
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill saw his side beat Moldova on Sunday

Martin O'Neill refused to get carried away after seeing the Republic of Ireland maintain their quest for World Cup qualification with victory in Moldova.

A 3-1 win in Chisinau left the Republic joint top of Group D with Serbia, who lead on goal difference after their thrilling 3-2 victory over Austria.

But it was Wales who made an early slip, drawing 1-1 at home to Georgia, who were unfortunate to lose in Ireland on Thursday evening.

Manager O'Neill said: "Georgia, they can play. I think that's sometimes forgotten about, they can play the game.

"I obviously have to study them because it's my job, but the game against Austria in the first match, I know they conceded from a free-kick and they defended it poorly, but they could have easily got something out of that game throughout the whole evening.

"They actually can play and I said the other night, if they had a goalscoring centre-forward... They can play, they definitely can play.

"It came as no surprise to me tonight. The only thing I thought, I thought they might be on a bit of a downer having played the two games in quick succession.

"But it's early on in the competition and, honestly, I'm delighted we have the points at this minute and we go in with a bit of confidence into the game next month regardless. But I said after our game in Serbia, anyone who finishes ahead of them will go very close.

"For us to win the game was pretty big. It's too early to call things this early - it would be lunacy to do that - but it's great to win away from home and especially in the manner in which we did."

Ireland looked to be in control when they took a second-minute lead through Shane Long's first goal for club or country in 19 games, but they were left kicking themselves when a lapse of concentration on the stroke of half-time allowed Igor Bugaev to level.

Central defender Shane Duffy looked to be the main culprit, but O'Neill was unhappy with more than one man.

He said: "It was not just Shane. We have the ball three or four yards from their touchline, the fourth official had already put two minutes up, we lose the ball... You could mention three or four things that could happen.

"The player broke through from his own half and scored the goal. It was a real set-back as we had dominated the game.

"We didn't look in any serious trouble, but we had to try to put it right in the second half and we deserved to win."

The Moldovans, who have not won a competitive game since they beat Montenegro in October 2013, returned after the break and made lift distinctly uncomfortable for the visitors.

However, they eventually ran out of steam and were punished when James McClean helped himself to a double to secure the points.

O'Neill said: "It's important to stay patient. The fact is, we had good spells of possession and just seemed to fall away inside the penalty area and there's always a danger you might concede something on the break, like the goal we conceded.

"But we stuck at it and James got two great goals. Well done him. He's a whole-hearted player. You know James, he puts everything into the match. He's getting himself into scoring positions more than before, so that's great also."

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