06.10.2016 at 19:45 Aviva Stadium
Republic of Ireland
1 - 0
Referee: Tony Chapron (France)
World Cup Qualifier / Prog-match
Paul Mc Shane
Eunan O Kane
Ireland secured a major first win of their 2018 World Cup Qualifying campaign in a game of narrow margins at the Aviva Stadium.
Seamus Coleman’s tap in from close range in the fifty-sixth minute proved to be the divider between two teams that competed in what was a lively game, watched by a vocal home crowd of 39,793.
The game started brightly for Ireland. Two penalty shouts in quick succession involving James McClean and Shane Long had the crowd on their feet before they had barely stood down from the national anthem.
Both sides shared equal spells of possession in the opening stages. Around the quarter mark, however, the Georgian midfield managed to maintain a decent spell of short passes. Number 10 Tornike Okriashville turned sharply to drive forwards, spraying the ball wide right to Otar Kakabadze. The full back’s stepovers resulted in a flat pass to Valeri Kazaishvilli on the edge of the six yard box. His swivel and half volley went thankfully just right of Randolph’s post.
As the game progressed the ball at Irish feet remained predominantly in defense and on the wings, the away side looking more comfortable in the centre. Ireland were combining nicely on the flanks but the final ball couldn’t seem to attain the quality required to penetrate the Georgian back four.
It was the latter stages of the first half when drama levels grew as both sides came to life; the Georgians first. Okriashvili involved again, this time a neat dinking cross from the right. Levan Mchedlidze attacked the ball with force, his impressive header crashing off the underside of the Irish crossbar. Georgia’s subsequent attempt from the rebound was headed off the line.
Ireland responded immediately. James McClean rose high to knock down the ball into the path of Walters, whose overhead kick went skywards over the bar. The half continued in this end to end nature. A through ball in the other direction saw Zazaishvili’s strength and speed beat Coleman to the ball, but Randolph was sharp off his line to smother.
O’Neill’s half time talk was clearly effective as Ireland stepped up the gears in the second forty five. Ten minutes in and the deadlock was broken, in somewhat bizarre fashion. Coleman, the eventual goalscorer, accelerated up the right flank, beating Giorgi Navalovski to cut inside. His attempted flat pass to Walters somehow rebounded off both the Irish number 19 and Georgian defender Solomon Kverkvelia to result in Coleman breaking though for the simplest of tap ins. Perseverance pays off, and they all count.
Ireland continued to press. A beautiful cross from Jonathan Walters was met by the head of McClean. As the net bulged, however, the linesman’s flag rose for offside.
Murmurs of approval filtered from the crowd as Ireland engaged in a series of positive passes. One exchange in particular, between Shane Long and Walters, saw the latter square the ball into the box only for a Georgian foot to get in the way.
The arrival of injury time did not stall Ireland’s unrelenting pressure. James McClean again found himself attacking a pin point Walters cross. This time the ball bounced back off the crossbar.
As the final whistle blew the Irish dugout celebrated a massive three points against a team that are certain to cause others problems in this qualifying group.
Ireland: Randolph; Coleman, Clark, Duffy, Ward, Walters, McCarthy, Hendrick, Brady (Whelan, 80), McClean, Long (O’Shea, 90+4)
Georgia: Loria; Kakabadze, Kashia, Kverkvelia, Navalovski (Kobakhidze, 90), Okriashvili, Daushvili (Katcharava, 90+3), Gvilia, Kazaishvili, Ananidze (Skhirtladze, 73), Mchedlidze
Referee: Tony Chapron (France)