It was a case of déjà vu for the Republic of Ireland Under-21s, who conceded a late equaliser against Georgia and had to settle for a 1-1 draw despite dominating the game for large periods.
The Georgians struck in the 89th minute to record a draw when the sides met in Tallaght last month, and this time it was an 85th minute strike which saw the points shared.
In a fast-paced, entertaining match, Ireland’s first real sight of goal came on 23 minutes when Cillian Sheridan broke down the left and crossed for Sean Scannell who, under pressure from the Georgia defence, could not direct his header goalward.
Full-back Seamus Coleman was next to threaten the home rearguard when he found space to run into the box on 26 minutes. However, he was stopped by Getlashvili just as he was about to shoot.
Scannell was causing more problems just one minute later when his cross-cum-shot rolled just inches wide of the post.
Despite a good period of pressure from the Boys in Green, Georgian winger Jano Ananidze was showing glimpses of brilliance on the left of midfield and three times in quick succession had the sizeable 5,000 crowd – which included a small travelling delegation standing behind a Shamrock Rovers flag – on their feet.
Still only 17 years old, Ananidze, who plays his club football for Spartak Moscow, is being hailed as the rising star of Gorgian football and the host’s tactics clearly involved getting the ball to him as often as possible.
First, he found space to whip in a cross that would have resulted in the opening goal only for Cian Hughton to block Irakli Klimlashnla’s goal-bound shot.
Seconds later, Ananidze was clean through on goal but Callum Morris’s brilliantly timed tackle cleared the danger. The tricky 17-year-old did manage to get his shot in on 35 minutes but his curling effort went wide of the post.
Ireland were forced to alter their XI on 42 minutes when Sean Scannell limped off with a hamstring strain, to be replaced by Graham Carey.
Carey’s impact was almost immediate, with the Celtic winger breaking the deadlock on 48 minutes after playing a clever one-two with Cillian Sheridan and drilling the ball low into the net from 18 yards.
Sheridan almost went from provider to goalscorer on 60 minutes when Collins played him into the box but his shot was well saved by Kvaskhvadze. The Georgian captain rescued his team once again one minute later when Collins raced into the box from the left but his powerful effort was blocked by the goalkeeper.
It was Shane Redmond’s turn to be the hero on 78 minutes when he did brilliantly to block Tomashvili’s close range effort.
Redmond could do nothing about the equaliser on 85 minutes, however. A free kick led to a scramble in the penalty area and substitute Kvaratskhelia was on hand to finish from close range.
Captain Owen Garvan almost snatched the three points right at the death but his blistering shot from the edge of the box struck the post and rolled wide.
Georgia: Kvaskhvadze – Capt., Tomashvili, Totadze, Getlashvili, Kakvbava, Davshvili, Kvekveskiri, Klimlashnila (Tchedla, 80 mins.), Dkriashvili, Ananidze, Ivanashvili (Kvaratskhelia, 72 mins.)
Substitutes not used: Tevdoiadze, Khatiashvili, Nemsadze, Shonia, Gabedava
Republic of Ireland: Shane Redmond, Seamus Coleman, Callum Morris, Darren Dennehy, Cian Hughton, Stephen Gleeson, David Meyler, Owen Garvan – Capt., Sean Scannell (Graham Carey, 42 mins.), James Collins (Seamus Conneely, 70 mins.), Cillian Sheridan (Lanre Oyebanjo, 86 mins.)
Substitutes not used: James McKeown, Kevin Long, Jay O’Shea