Ireland labour to dismal draw against Georgia


Republic of Ireland's hopes of qualifying for Euro 2020 suffered a setback on Saturday as they were held to an insipid 0-0 draw away to Georgia.

Mick McCarthy's side remain top of Group D on 12 points, but failure to win in Tbilisi has given Switzerland and Denmark – who they face in their final two games – hope of reeling them in.

The visitors offered almost no attacking threat in what was a truly woeful display, with John Egan's header against the post early on their only chance of note.

Qualification is still in Ireland's hands but they will need a significantly improved performance when they travel to Switzerland on Tuesday if they are to progress to the finals next year.

Georgia dominated possession throughout the first half but were unable to test Darren Randolph in the Ireland goal.

Valeri Qazaishvili squandered their best opportunity shortly before the interval, dragging wide from 18 yards after a swift counter-attack.

At the other end, Egan headed against Giorgi Loria's left-hand post after four minutes in what was the visitors' only clear sight of goal in a dire opening period.

Any hopes of an improved performance by Ireland after the break were soon dispelled, with the visitors swiftly settling back into their lacklustre rhythm.

Jeff Hendrick volleyed into the side netting from an acute angle 15 minutes from time as McCarthy's men toiled in attack once more.

Substitute Aaron Connolly fired into the side netting in stoppage time after a quick break, while Shane Duffy headed straight at the goalkeeper, as Ireland fell short of what would have been an undeserved win.

What does it mean? Ireland's hopes in the balance

Ireland remain unbeaten after six games but this will feel like a huge opportunity missed for McCarthy and his men. A win would have meant Ireland could have settled for draws in their final group games, but this result likely makes victory necessary from at least one of their remaining matches against their closest rivals. On this evidence, that will not be an easy task.

Hendrick rises above mediocrity

The Burnley midfielder was comfortably Ireland's brightest spark. His end product was lacking but he brought an energy that was sorely missing from the majority of his team-mates.

Whelan off the pace

Glenn Whelan said this week he moved to Scottish Premiership side Hearts to give himself the best chance of playing in Euro 2020, but McCarthy will be forced to explore other midfield options if he delivers more ineffective performances like this.

Key Opta Facts

- Ireland have faced Georgia more times without losing than they have against any other team (W9 D2 L0).
- Georgia attempted 14 shots but failed to direct any on target.
- Ireland are unbeaten in their last nine matches in all competitions (W4 D5 L0), their longest such run since June 2012 (15 games).

What's next?

Ireland face that crunch clash with Switzerland on Tuesday, while Georgia travel to Gibraltar on the same day.

Source Omnisport