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Republic of Ireland 0-1 Ukraine: Viktor Tsygankov strike seals Nations League victory

Match report from Aviva Stadium, Dublin, where defeat to much-changed Ukraine sees Republic of Ireland's winless run at home in competitive matches extended to 10 games; Ireland yet to score home goal in Nations League and sit bottom of Group B1 after defeats to Armenia and Ukraine

Republic of Ireland have lost their opening two Nations League matches after defeat to Ukraine in Dublin
Image: Republic of Ireland have lost their opening two Nations League matches after defeat to Ukraine in Dublin

Republic of Ireland suffered successive Nations League defeats as Ukraine bounced back from World Cup play-off heartbreak with a 1-0 victory at Aviva Stadium.

Ireland's quest for a maiden home victory in the Nations League was sharpened by their opening-round defeat in Armenia but substitute Viktor Tsygankov's second-half strike and another toothless attacking display condemned Stephen Kenny's side to defeat in Dublin.

Shane Duffy came closest to salvaging a point late on when his header was tipped onto the crossbar by goalkeeper Andriy Lunin, but a much-changed Ukraine dug deep to repel the late Irish rally as the hosts, who are yet to score a home goal in the Nations League since its inception, saw their winless run on home soil in competitive matches extend to 10 games.

Ukraine's 10 pre-match changes were an indication of just how big a toll missing out on a place at Qatar 2022 to Wales had on Olexandr Petrakov's squad, but kicking off their Nations League campaign with a victory will have begun banishing the painful memories of Cardiff.

Another Nations League nightmare for Ireland

Jason Knight, preferred on the left side of a front three to Troy Parrott, drilled an early shot at Lunin and Chiedozie Ogbene saw his near-post cross cut out after he had intercepted the keeper's attempted pass to Oleksandr Syrota as the hosts' high press paid early dividends.

Lunin had to beat away Knight's 10th-minute strike from distance with Ireland looking far more threatening than they had done at any stage in Yerevan on Saturday, although Mykhaylo Mudryk whistled a long-range effort high over Kelleher's crossbar to serve warning of what might lie in store.

Team news

  • Cyrus Christie and Jason Knight came in for Troy Parrott and the injured Seamus Coleman as Ireland made two changes to the side beaten in Armenia on Saturday.
  • After fielding the same side in both World Cup play-offs against Scotland and Wales, Ukraine made 10 changes in Dublin with Everton defender Vitaliy Mykolenko the only player to retain his place after defeat in Cardiff.

Vitaliy Mykolenko drilled a speculative attempt well wide as playmaker Mykola Shaparenko started to bring his influence to bear, and Mudryk might have done better after being played into space by Shaparenko, but stabbed the ball harmlessly across goal.

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However, Ogbene was equally wasteful after escaping the attentions of Syrota, blasting an ambitious 21st-minute shot straight at defender Valeriy Bondar with Callum Robinson begging for a square ball in the middle.

As the tempo settled, so too did Ukraine and Duffy had to throw himself into the path of Serhiy Sydorchuk's drive before Kelleher dealt ably with Oleksandr Zubkov's equally well-struck effort.

Robinson was appealing in vain for a 33rd-minute penalty after he had gone down under Bondar's challenge in pursuit of Jeff Hendrick's deft pass, but Ireland were spared with eight minutes of the half remaining when Taras Kacharaba's sweet strike was ruled out for offside during the build-up following a VAR review.

Viktor Tsygankov scored for the first time in his last 13 appearances for Ukraine, since netting in a 1-1 draw against Bahrain in May 2021.
Image: Viktor Tsygankov scored for the first time in his last 13 appearances for Ukraine, since netting in a 1-1 draw against Bahrain in May 2021.

Knight saw a snapshot blocked within seconds of the restart after Cyrus Christie and Ogbene had combined down the right, but Ireland fell behind when Tsygankov's in-swinging free-kick eluded everyone in the middle and, with Kelleher expecting a touch, flew inside his far post.

With Shaparenko conducting and striker Artem Dovbyk stretching the home defence, the visitors dominated an Ireland side which had once again run out of inspiration, although they were desperately unfortunate not to be level with 11 minutes remaining when Duffy crashed a header against the crossbar.

Substitute Michael Obafemi glanced wide and Josh Cullen thumped a long-range attempt just wide of the same upright with Lunin rooted to the spot in a rousing finish, but it was all too little, too late and Tysgankov saw a stoppage-time shot deflected onto the bar.

Shane Duffy saw an effort tipped onto the bar late on
Image: Shane Duffy saw an effort tipped onto the bar late on

What the managers said...

Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny: "We're hurting at the moment and we don't have time for that because such is the quick turn-around here. We've got to get ourselves ready for Scotland."

Asked if he was surprised his side had not opened their account, Kenny added: "We wanted to do that and we haven't done that, that's for sure, particularly with the game in Armenia.

"We always knew that Ukraine would be a tough game - they got to the quarter-finals of the European Championships, they're a quality team, so that was always going to be a tough game. But of course we would want points. I'm just raging that we didn't get at least one win there in the two narrow games."

Ukraine coach Oleksandr Petrakov: "Clearly this is a very difficult time when Ukrainians come to see us playing in Ireland, Ukrainians who were accepted by this incredible hospitality by the Irish people. You guys took in our women and children, who were risking their lives back in Ukraine and I want to extend our gratitude to the whole of Ireland.

"I understand those Ukrainians who were in the stands today, all they wanted to see was just a bit of positivity from our team. But at the same time, they're really longing to go home, go back to Ukraine and we made them a little bit happier tonight. That is the major achievement, in my view."

Ireland's alarming run - Opta stats

  • Ireland have gone 10 competitive matches without winning at home for the first time ever (D7 L3).
  • Ukraine have won three of their last four games (L1), after registering just one victory in their previous seven.
  • Only Andorra (14) have played more UEFA Nations League games without ever winning than Ireland (P12 D5 L7).
  • Ireland have failed to score in consecutive games for the first time since a run of seven without a goal which ended in November 2020.

What's next?

The Republic of Ireland will host Scotland on Saturday at 7.45pm while Ukraine host Armenia on Saturday at 2pm.

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