Ireland suffered a deflating and undeserved two one defeat by hosts Portugal in Faro this Wednesday evening. While the outcome most probably puts paid to the chances of progressing to the Qatar World Cup Finals, the performance gives solid grounds for optimism, provided of course that tonight’s levels are sustained and built upon. The management team provided the players with a clear and astute game plan which was followed with great conviction. There were of course some lapses which have to be expected but they were contained to a minimum.
Statistically the hosts dominated possession but for the greater part did not impose themselves on a disciplined Irish team. Ireland took the lead on the stroke of half time through John Egan and held their advantage until the 89th minute when Christiano Ronaldo scored the equaliser and the same player reprised the effort in the sixth minute of added time.
The concession of a lengthy debated 10th minute penalty was disappointing but teenage goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu provided an uplifting tonic with a splendid save. For one so young, Bazunu exudes a calm confidence that offers reassurance to those in front of him. The back three of Dara O’Shea, Shane Duffy and John Egan, which was a positional change from previous outings, looked solid and whilst disrupted by the 35th minute injury which forced the withdrawal of O’Shea and the brave introduction of eighteen year old Andrew Omobamidele, maintained it’s composure. Captain Seamus Coleman and Matt Doherty occupied wing back positions and performed excellently.
In midfield Josh Cullen, who has been enjoying a very consistent run of matches and performance with RSC Anderlecht, was excellent. Surprise selection Jamie McGrath justified his inclusion on the right side of midfield and provided some fine dead ball deliveries. The front duo of Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah worked tirelessly with the Cork man particularly impressive in his central role. The Galway man offered great energy but will be disappointed with his finishing which lacked composure but that will hopefully improve with time.
The goal scored by John Egan on the cusp of half-time was impressive with the Cork man reacting brilliantly to a fine corner delivery from McGrath to head an excellent goal. The disappointment of all at the end of the match was palpable and one hopes that they can recover from their exertions and provide a fitting performance against Azerbaijan, who went down to a two one defeat in Luxembourg this evening, when they visit the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
Gavin Bazunu; Seamus Coleman (C), Dara O’Shea, Shane Duffy, John Egan, Matt Doherty; Jeff Hendrick, Josh Cullen, Jamie McGrath; Adam Idah, Aaron Connolly
Andrew Omobamidele for O’Shea 35′
James McClean for Connolly 72′
James Collins for Idah 90′
Jayson Molumby for McGrath 90′
Manager Stephen Kenny has named his Republic of Ireland starting eleven for this evening’s 2022 World Cup qualifier against hosts Portugal in Faro-Louie. The inclusion of St Mirren midfielder Jamie McGrath is the only real surprise. McGrath was set to move to fellow Scottish Premiership club Hibernian but the proposed transfer was not completed last night because of on administrative error.
Gavin Bazunu; Seamus Coleman (C), Shane Duffy, John Egan, Dara O’Shea, Matt Doherty; Jeff Hendrick, Josh Cullen, Jamie McGrath; Aaron Connolly, Adam Idah
It has also been confirmed that Shane Long has tested positive for Covid19 and he is in isolation from the rest of the group.