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As it happened: Georgia v Ireland, Euro 2020 qualifiers

Ireland were held to a dismal 0-0 draw by Georgia in Tbilisi. Catch up on what little action there was in our minute-by-minute report.

  • Georgia
  • Republic of Ireland
  • RTÉ 2 / Sky
Image : Tommy Dickson/INPHO
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It’s make or break time for Ireland’s Euro 2020 qualification hopes, and with Denmark and Switzerland hot on their heels at the top of Group D, they cannot afford to slip up.

A visit to Tbilisi has a very familiar feeling, but recent history reminds us that this is bound to be a tricky test for Mick McCarthy’s side.

Win this afternoon, and they’ll take a huge step closer to a top-two finish and automatic qualification.

Kick-off is at 2pm. Here’s the team news…

TEAM NEWS: It’s largely as expected for Ireland with John Egan alongside Shane Duffy at centre-half, Matt Doherty at left-full for the suspended Enda Stevens, and James Collins leading the line alone up front with Callum Robinson and James McClean playing off him.

Aaron Connolly is on the bench.

Darren Randolph; Seamus Coleman (captain), Shane Duffy, John Egan, Matt Doherty; Glenn Whelan, Conor Hourihane, Jeff Hendrick; Callum Robinson, James Collins, James McClean

TEAM NEWS: And here’s how the hosts line out.

Loria, Kakabadze, Kashia, Grigalava, Tabidze, Kankava (c), Kiteishvili, Okriashvili, Ananidze, Qazaishvili, Kvilitaia.

“It’s not a glamour tie,” says Damien Duff on RTÉ’s pre-match panel, “but this is as big as it gets.”

With just three games remaining in the group, it’s hard to dispute that.

The teams are out and Amhrán na bhFiann is being played. How are you feeling about this one?

Have to say, it looks like a smashing day in Tbilisi — in the part of the stadium that’s in the sun, at least.

An early chance for Georgia as Qazaishvili cuts inside Seamus Coleman but rushes his shot and sends it high and wide.

OFF THE POST! So close for Ireland. Hourihane whips in a free kick from the left, Egan gets up in front of some non-existant marking and glances a header towards the back post. Loria is at full stretch and beaten but it comes off the woodwork and bounces clear. So close.

Ireland have started with a very high press as they try to force their hosts into some early mistakes. Georgia build patiently, though, and Kakabadze gets down the right wing on the overlap and crosses towards the penalty spot. Hourihane gets his positioning spot on and heads clear.

Hendrick arrives to the tackle a split-second too late and clips Grigalava on the shin. A foul, for sure, and 23 rolls later, we’re ready to resume.

Hendrick tries to drive at the Georgian defence but he loses it cheaply and it’s nicked away from him by Kankava. Georgia counter, and Okriashvili nips around Doherty with a quick one-two. He pulls it back into the box but Ireland clear their lines.

Bad miss from Ananidze, who should really hit the target from the edge of the box. Egan steps up to play offside but the assistant’s flag stays down and Kvilitaia runs on to it. He tees it up for Ananidze but he sidefoots it well wide without troubling Randolph in the Ireland goal.

Penalty shout from the Georgian crowd as Okriashvili goes down in the box with Doherty in close attention. The referee is not interested, much to the crowd’s dismay.

Timely block by Whelan who gets out quickly to Ananidze to shut down his shot at the edge of the box. Georgia have certainly had the better of these opening 15 minutes, that’s for sure. Ireland haven’t really settled yet.

Ireland have had 35% possession to this point, according to the official Uefa stats.

Coleman and Robinson try to fashion something down the right. Whelan hits his pass with a bit too much juice as he looks to put Coleman in behind the Georgian defence and it’s out for a throw.

Kiteishvili glides past Hourihane in midfield like he’s not even there. Ireland clear their lines. Georgia come right back at them. Rinse and repeat.

“Do it quicker” is the instruction from Mick McCarthy on the Irish line. That’d help, for sure.

Georgia are certainly looking composed when they play the ball out of the back, finding their captain, Kankava, in space and letting him get on it deep and dictate from there.

One of the Georgian lads has just passed the ball straight out of play. It’s not just us, which is good.

Coleman stands tall and prevents Qazaishvili from getting across into the Irish box, but the respite is temporary and Georgia come straight back at Ireland again.

Collins slides in late on Grigalava, and is probably fortunate to get away without a booking there. It’s been a frustrating 33 minutes for him up front, much like the rest of us.

Time for a quick water break while Grigalava is being treated but we’re back in business now.

CHANCE FOR IRELAND! Robinson gets to the bye-line and gets a good cross into the box. Collins isn’t there, and Loria stays on his line, so it comes closest to James McClean at the back post, and he isn’t expecting it. If he’d dipped his head, or stuck out a toe, he might well have troubled the Georgian keeper there.

Ireland get a few players forward into the box but McClean’s cross is overhit and misses everyone, including Coleman coming in at the back post.

James Collins does very well to win a corner, the first of the afternoon, but it’s not a good delivery and then McClean squanders possession as he tries to make something of it. Georgia break but Qazaishvili wastes their chance as well.

Another Ireland corner, which Hourihane gets under. Egan does manage to head it towarsd goal and Loria saves, but the whistle has already gone for a foul on the keeper in the build-up.

Robinson flicks the ball through to Coleman, who tries to cross, but it ends up in the side-netting at the near post.

SECOND HALF: We’re back underway in Tbilisi as Shane Duffy hoofs it forward into the Georgian half. No changes for either side at the break.

Promising start for Ireland with two half-chances in quick succession. First, Loria fumbles a McClean cross, and then just about gets there before Hendrick can punish the mistake. Then Coleman gets in behind following a lovely cushioned chest pass from Hendrick, but his cross is cut out.

Kakabadze, the Georgian defender, looks like he might be in trouble as he goes down for treatment with no other player near him.

Egan hooks the ball away from Kvilitaia, but Georgia come again. Okriashvili crosses into the box and again, it’s Egan who is there to meet it and head the ball clear.

A Georgian free is headed behind by Shane Duffy for the hosts’ first corner. They take it quickly to the front post but Glenn Whelan is alive to the danger and heads it behind for another corner.

From the resulting corner, Randolph tips the ball over the bar but the referee spots that it had been deflected goalwards off Kvilitaia’s forearm. Free out.

Ireland send the cavalry forward again as Hourihane readies himself over another free, but Loria is first to it and punches clear with both fists.

Very suspect defending from Ireland as both Doherty and McClean get drawn towards the runner on the overlap like moths to a flame, and both leave Kakabadze — the man with the actual football — to swerve back inside and into the Irish box. The chance ultimately comes to nothing, thankfully, but Ireland have to do better than that.

Derrick Williams is the only Irish sub warming up at the moment. Matt Doherty has had better days, that’s for sure.

Ananidze breaks but then has to try cut back inside Whelan to make space for a shot, and is caught by the midfielder’s trailing leg. Whelan finds himself in the referee’s book, and Georgia have a free in a promising position.

Ananidze takes it himself but it’s a yard over Randolph’s bar and rising.

Lovely passage of play from Georgia as Kankava switches the ball out to Qazaishvili on the left. John Egan does really well to get a strong head on his cross.

Twenty minutes left and Ireland’s best chance so far remains that John Egan header which feels like it happened back in March.

It looks like Alan Browne will be coming on shortly as Mick McCarthy’s first change…

Ireland sub: And here he is, on to replace Callum Robinson for the last 18 minutes.

Poor defensive header from Tabidze who doesn’t clear his lines at all, and the ball falls to Hendrick, who thumps it into the side netting on this near side rather than putting it across the goal to test the keeper.

Ireland sub: And here’s the man that most will have wanted to see, with 12 minutes to make an impact; Aaron Connolly comes on to replace James Collins. Can he get a chance to give Ireland three valuable points?

Georgia make another change as well with Lobzhanidze replacing Okriashvili.

A Georgian effort is deflected behind for a corner, but the delivery is met at the front post by Coleman who heads it well clear.

Hearts in mouths moment for Ireland as Coleman and Egan get their lines in a muddle and it allows Lobjanidze to bundle Coleman off the ball and get into the Irish box. Egan deals with it eventually but there was more than a hint of panic there for a second.

And other Irish miscommunication as McClean is not where Hourihane expects him to be and the pass bobbles harmlessly into touch. They’re not shy of letting each other know about it either.

Grigalava barrels through Hourihane long after the ball was gone and is booked for his trouble. Three minutes left here, and any hope that Ireland might even get a shot on target looks foolish.

Kakabadze — a defender — decides that he’s the man to take the game by the scruff of the neck and tries his luck from 20+ yards. Spoiler alert: he’s not.

HALF-CHANCE! Connolly forces a save from Loria down low but that might well be as good as it gets for Ireland. It was a link between Connolly and McClean, and when the ball spun back to the teenager, he took his chance and pulled on it. It wasn’t quite clean enough to trouble Loria though.

Four additional minutes here, as John Egan is named the RTÉ Man of the Match. Slim enough pickings.

OH WHAT A CHANCE! Aaron Connolly is clean through on goal but the ball just won’t sit down for him. He smashes it goalwards but it’s into the side-netting — Loria had it well covered. If he’d hit the target there, that might well have been an Irish winner.

SAVED ON THE LINE! Hourihane’s gone off, so Hendrick jogs over to take the corner from the right, and it will be the final action of the match. It’s a high, hanging cross, and Duffy gets a strong header behind it, but it’s straight at Loria who gets his body behind it.

That’s it.

A point gained, or two dropped, is the first question put to Shane Duffy in his post-match interview. He doesn’t know the answer but it certainly feels like the latter.

With the exception of that early Egan header, Ireland’s best period of play was comfortably the five minutes of additional time when they came closest to finding a breakthrough through Connolly (twice) and then Duffy at the death. Should Connolly have come in a little bit earlier? It’s a question that McCarthy will have to answer when he faces the media.

That’s all from us for now, but we’ll be keeping a close eye on Denmark against Switzerland this evening to see if either of them can close the gap to Ireland. But for now, Ireland lead Group D by three points with two games to play.

Still, it could have been so much better.

Thanks for reading. 

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