Georgia 0-0 Republic of Ireland: Mick McCarthy's side remain unbeaten in Group D
Mick McCarthy's men stay top of Group D but face Switzerland and Denmark next
Last Updated: 12/10/19 8:05pm
Republic of Ireland remain unbeaten in Group D after being held to a 0-0 draw in Georgia - a result which leaves Euro 2020 qualification in their sights.
The result, paired with Denmark's 1-0 win over Switzerland in Saturday's later game, means Republic of Ireland are top of Group D with 12 points, ahead of Denmark on head-to-head record, and four points ahead of Switzerland, who have a game in hand.
Group D table
|1. Rep of Ireland||6||12|
In a scrappy game lacking quality, Ireland didn't carry the attacking intent to take maximum points but were outstanding in defence to grab a vital clean sheet.
Set-pieces were the best route for Mick McCarthy's men with John Egan hitting the post and Shane Duffy going close in injury-time, while the introduction of Brighton's Aaron Connolly for his debut off the bench was a big positive.
The 19-year-old forced a late save from goalkeeper Giorgi Loria and then fired into the side-netting as his pace and creativity caused problems for Georgia, who didn't have a shot on target.
Next up for Ireland is a trip Switzerland on Tuesday, where an away win would all-but guarantee Ireland's spot at Euro 2020.
Republic of Ireland: Randolph (7), Coleman (6), Duffy (8), Egan (7), Doherty (6), Whelan (5), McClean (5), Robinson (5), Hendrick (5), Hourihane (5), Collins (5)
Subs: Browne (5), Connolly (7), Williams (N/A)
Man of the match: Shane Duffy
A good point? Or two dropped?
It could have been a different story for the visitors had Egan's clever header not come back off the woodwork inside five minutes. Conor Hourihane provided a rare moment of quality from a deep free-kick and the Sheffield United defender's header was almost perfect but the post came to Georgia's rescue.
Although they failed to create a clear opening, the hosts were tidy in possession but the excellent Duffy defended his box with great aggression.
The slow and predictable pattern of the game remained after the break with Jano Ananidze's 66th-minute free-kick sailing high over the crossbar the only moment of danger on either goal.
With 10 minutes remaining, McCarthy replaced James Collins with Connolly as Ireland seemed to sense their opportunity of an important three points.
The lively Brighton man stung the palms of Loria before racing through on goal in injury time but his finish flashed into the side-netting rather than between the sticks. That looked to be Ireland's last chance but one last corner was forced and Duffy rose highest to plant a firm header on target from eight yards but it was straight at Loria.
Man of the match: Shane Duffy
A rock at the heart of the Ireland defence. Georgia didn't carry anywhere near the quality required to test a defender of Duffy's ability. There aren't many better than him around at defending his own penalty area. And, as always, he was a huge threat in the opposition area and he almost enhanced his already God-like status within the Irish fanbase in injury time but his powerful header couldn't beat the goalkeeper.
Mick McCarthy: "If somebody had said to me at the start when we were playing Georgia we'd get four points from them, I would have taken that.
"I think as we have seen today, they are a good side. We saw it against Denmark. They've had a lot of the ball, Darren [Randolph] has not made a save but it was a tough game. It is a good point to take away I believe.
"I thought Connolly was excellent, the bits he got the ball. He was not on that long but he is sharp. The one where he got in, I fancied him to score, I thought it was just going to be a perfect debut, and he hit the one with his right foot and made the keeper save. He is lively and I'm delighted with him."
Analysis: 'Ireland still in a great position'
Stephen Kelly on SSN:
"It will be frustrating but we didn't cause problems until the last 10 minutes. Up until then it had been a dull affair and didn't press them.
"We'll be disappointed as this would have been a game earmarked as three points ahead of facing Switzerland and Denmark. We're still in a great position ahead of facing Switzerland on Tuesday.
"Hopefully Aaron Connolly will be the solution to the lack of goals - he was lively when he came on. Since Robbie Keane retired, it's been hard for anyone to emulate his goals, so we're looking for the players to all chip in, but we need to be creating more opportunities."
- Republic of Ireland have faced Georgia more times without ever losing than they have against any other team (W9 D2 L0).
- Republic of Ireland are unbeaten in their last nine matches in all competitions (W4 D5 L0), their longest such run since June 2012 (15 games).
- Republic of Ireland have scored just eight goals in their last 13 away matches in all competitions, never netting more than once in a game and failing to score on five occasions.
- Connolly (19y 258d) became the youngest player to make his Republic of Ireland debut since Michael Obafemi (18y & 136d) against Denmark in November 2018.
McCarthy's side are back in action, live on Sky Sports Football, on Tuesday when they head to Switzerland before hosting Denmark on November 18 for what could be a winner-takes-all clash.
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