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'We created chances and that is pleasing' - O'Neill keen to focus on the positives

Giving away sloppy goals and not putting away clear-cut opportunities cost Ireland, according to the manager.

O'Neill applauding his players last night.
O'Neill applauding his players last night.
Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

MARTIN O’NEILL MAY have discovered what it feels like to lose an international match last night but the Ireland manager insisted there were plenty of positives to take away.

A bright first half to his third game in charge since taking over last November saw Shane Long score early on but Serbia got on top in the second half and came away with victory — thanks to a James McCarthy own-goal and second from Filip Dordevic.

Ranked 38 places higher than Ireland according to FIFA, the Serbians are undoubtedly the strongest side O’Neill has faced during his short time in charge and, although he admitted that mistakes were made in defensive positions, he was pleased with the general performance.

“I thought we started very brightly in the game and had a goal disallowed,” O’Neill said during his post-match press conference. “I’m disappointed to find out that it’s about a yard onside.

“Having said that, we scored a very good goal and had a great opportunity to go 2-0 in front. I suppose at international level, or any level, that would have been a bit moment for us.

“We did very well up until half-time but I thought we started a bit hesitantly in the second half, allowed them into the game and they scored a goal.

I thought we lost our way a bit for awhile. That said, during the period we could’ve gone 2-1 in front.

“We created chances tonight and that is very pleasing. I don’t mean a half-chances, they were really great chances in the game.

“If we had taken them I think we probably would have gone on to win the match.

“We were beaten and obviously disappointed to lose the game.

“They have some very decent players so some sort of credit has to go to them. They started brightly in the second half and that goal has given them a big left. They have gone to get a second goal and it’s a rather sloppy one as far as we are concerned.

“Overall, lots to be really genuinely happy about. Disappointed to have lost the match but in the scheme of things, there are things we can try and work on.”

Shane Long scores a goal Shane Long scores. Source: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

In the absence of all-time record goalscorer and recently-crowned FAI Senior International Player of the Year Robbie Keane, Shane Long led the line and produced a composed finish to score but also missed two great opportunities when put through by Wes Hoolahan.

“Shane could’ve scored a hat-trick tonight,” added O’Neill, who also praised Hoolahan for his contribution in attack. “His first goal he took brilliantly and the other two might have been easier chances to have taken considering his confidence was up.

With his confidence being high I thought he might have taken it another yard or two and put it in.

“I think he’s frustrated by the fact that he could have easily scored a hat-trick. It didn’t happen.

“In terms of his contribution, I think that where he wants to improve is his overall ability ability of a centre forward. To be able to take it in, keep the ball for a second or two and bring other players into the game.

“I think he’s attempting to do that and I think he’s trying to improve in that.”

Player ratings: here’s how we thought the Boys in Green did against Serbia

Ireland left to rue wasted opportunities as Serbia claim victory

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Ben Blake

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