Stephen Kenny admitted that Ireland lost their structure in a ‘crazy’ game with Armenia, but felt his side were still ‘convincing’ winners despite needing a favour from VAR in a frenetic ending.
Robbie Brady’s injury time penalty spared Ireland’s blushes at the Aviva after a two goal lead was thrown away in what Kenny described as a ‘few minutes of madness.’
Armenian players, already furious that Jayson Molumby wasn’t sent off earlier, lost their heads after a handball was spotted in the box and two received red cards from the Slovenian in the aftermath.
However, questions were raised about Ireland’s composure after they gave away a position of control with Kenny insisting his players will come on from the experience.
The manager said his players pushed on and went in search of a third goal when it was unnecessary, referencing the adventure shown by his centre halves that he felt was misguided at that juncture.
“I think we today we went chasing the third goal when we didn’t need to do it,” said Kenny, “We had centre halves overlapping at 2-0 up. We lost a bit of structure. You must maintain your structure, some protection for that (overlapping) as well when you’re winning.
“It’s a few minutes of madness and I think we can learn from that. We needed to get the third goal then and we got it.”
Kenny said midfielder Conor Hourihane, a sub to replace Molumby after he was lucky to escape an early bath, would be the first to ‘hold his hands up’ for the mistake that led to the Armenian equaliser.
“He’s a terrific passer of the ball, that’s his strength and he’s been a really good player for Ireland,” said Kenny, who suggested he was happy with the team’s display apart from that period.
“Overall, that’s the identity of the Irish team now, a team that can dominate possession. We certainly are capable of stringing 20 to 30 passes together no problem and switching the play but I still want to improve the amount of chances we can create in that time. Our front two struggled for space against a blanket defence.
“We thoroughly deserved it (the result). We were convincing winners. Once we won the game, that was the main thing. We’ve scored three here and three against Scotland.”
Kenny said he was considering his options when asked if departed coach John Eustace would be replaced ahead of November international window, taking issue with a suggestion that the last two games backed up the case for strengthening the sideline. “We might need an extra coach because that’s what you need with the dynamic of camps,” he said.
The result means Ireland remain in League B, with a return of two wins and a draw from six games. They already knew they would be third seeds for Sunday week’s Euro 2024 qualifying draw and results elsewhere this week mean that Ireland are ranked as the second best of the four third placed sides.
This will become relevant if Ireland fail to finish in the top two of their qualifying group as they are reasonably placed to end up in a playoff in this instance.
It took an injury-time penalty from Robbie Brady, back in the side after an 18-month absence, to earn the 3-2 win on a night when the Republic allowed a comfortable 2-0 lead turn into a tense 2-2 scoreline, Armenia aggrieved by a series of decisions including the penalty decision, a claim that the corner which led to the winning goal should not have been given and
"Overall the players did well, apart from that ridiculous ten-minute spell but we got the win," Kenny said.
"I know that we played really well in the game, I was very pleased with how we'd played but we absolutely shot ourselves in the foot for a five minute period, two goals in two minutes, it was careless.
"We could have been 4-0 up at that stage, our centre backs were overlapping, everyone was committing to attack and we obviously got caught on the break, we were winning 2-0 and made a mistake and got punished.
"The fact that we came back and won 3-2 was important, we were the much better team and could have won by a few goals, but there are lessons there for us, learnings for sure," added Kenny.
"I don't see the players now for two months and that's the difference with international football, they know and we know that we were so much in the ascendancy that we went for the third, fourth, fifth goal, which is fine, but we shouldn't lose the structure of our back three in the way that we did and the protection around that.
"Overall there were loads of good things in the performance, a five-minute moment of madness but we won the game, a pressure game for the players and it was important to win it, which we did.
"We have a very young team, it was an exceptional performance at times," added Kenny, who admitted that he took off midfielder Jayson Molumby to prevent him from being sent off.
"For long spells we were good, we made mistakes, at 2-0 up we don't need to go chasing a fourth, we can go and get a third but by keeping our structure and we didn't do that."
Meanwhile, Ireland forward Michael Obafemi shared his thoughts on his terrific second half strike but admitted the Boys in Green got complacent while leading 2-0.
“Whenever I shoot down this end, it seems to go in," the Swansea forward said as he collected the man-of-the-match award.
"It was a good pass from Dara O’Shea, I took a good first touch, hit it and thankfully it went in,” he said.
“I think we just got a bit sloppy. I feel like we got a bit too comfortable.
"But ultimately we got the win thanks to Robbie. We’re just glad that we maintained our position in Group B.”