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Image: Tomi Hänninen/INPHO

Goal-shy Ireland fall to another defeat to Finland

Fredrik Jensen was the match winner again as Kenny’s Ireland drew yet another blank in front of goal.
Oct 14th 2020, 7:08 PM 40,535 89

Finland 1

Republic of Ireland 0

IRELAND’S WINLESS and goalless run goes on, falling to another defeat to Finland in familiar circumstances while amplifying familiar problems.

The game was lost in circumstances to give thrust to Kenny’s sceptics: Ireland passed the ball well, but again failed to score and lost in trying to play the ball from the back. Darren Randolph was at fault on this occasion, his errant goal-kick to Matt Doherty ending up in the back of his own net moments later, Frederick Jensen scoring the winning goal once again. 

It is a bad end to a convulsive week for Kenny and Ireland, and it means they have yet to win or even score from open play under the new manager. Performances have been littered with encouraging signs, but at some point they need to yield something. 

If Kenny isn’t winning points he needs to win hearts and minds, and the way this game was lost will do nothing to sway the doubters and the misbelievers. 

Many of those doubts are ventriloquised through Mick McCarthy’s wry scepticism on Sky Sports, and again he popped up on commentary for this game. 

He gave mention to last year’s win against Gibraltar less than a minute in, which is fast becoming the most celebrated rolling over of a Rock since the resurrection. This might also explain Mick’s preponderance on crosses. 

A more jarring and arguably more welcoming sound was the roar at the end of the Finland national anthem, with the local authorities allowing 8,000 socially-distanced fans in the Olympic Stadium. 

Ireland were bright and eager from the off, and a quick free-kick by Conor Hourihane launched a slick Irish move down the left wing, which ended with Jeff Hendrick side-footing a shot lacking conviction from the edge of the box. 

Most of Ireland’s best moves came down the left wing through the returning Connolly, who found another close contact in Finland left-back Pyry Soiri, from whom he picked up a succession of free-kicks.

aaron-connolly Aaron Connolly. Source: Kalle Parkkinen/INPHO

Connolly found more space as the half wore on, and he jinked inside and curled a speculative shot from distance that was easily saved by Hradecky. Kenny called for “extreme width” from Connolly and Daryl Horgan ahead of the game, but it was tempting to spend the first half wondering how much more effective Connolly would be in a central role.

That’s not to say he was ineffective out wide, at one point skating infield to push a dangerous pass into the penalty area for Sean Maguire, but the move perished with the striker’s clumsy touch. 

Connolly did get his chance to play through the middle in the second half, when Maguire made way for Robbie Brady. In truth he underwhelmed, offering a threat in behind that Maguire did not but snapped too many shots too close to Hradecky.

Several Irish moves were thwarted by imprecision, with an errant through-ball by Hendrick costing Matt Doherty a chance to get possession behind the Finland line after a neat link-up with Daryl Horgan. 

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Finland created little in the first half but Teemu Pukki has the quality to feast on scraps, and he sprung to life when he nipped behind the Irish defence and fired a shot narrowly wide of Randolph’s far post. 

The hosts met the second half with renewed vigour, with Doherty and O’Shea – impressively assured on his senior debut – forced to block shots in the penalty area.

Ireland weren’t cowed. Enda Stevens popped up in the penalty area and saw a terrific effort off the outside of his left foot bounce off the angle of the bar and post, while a minute later Doherty raided forward, shot and shook the side-netting. 

An attempt to send Doherty forward again gifted Finland their goal. Darren Randolph played a quick but dreadful goal-kick for the right-back that was easily intercepted by Pukki, who slid the ball across the back post to Fredrik Jensen, who turned the ball in at the near post in spite of O’Shea’s last-ditch efforts. 

It was eerily similar to Jensen’s winner in Dublin last month: a back-post finish from a move rooted in Ireland’s sloppiness. This goal came on the 66-minute mark; his Dublin winner came on 63. It means he has now scored more goals against Stephen Kenny’s Ireland than Stephen Kenny’s Ireland have scored against anyone. 

McCarthy, meanwhile, was offended by the concession of the goal, stressing results are more important than performances, though in fairness he diluted the glaring subtext of his summary by admitting he had found himself in similar situations himself. 

Back in Helsinki, Kenny introduced Adam Idah, Ronan Curtis and teenager Jason Knight, but Ireland created very little from open play, while Shane Duffy was off-target with a trademark towering header from a Robbie Brady corner. 

Matt Doherty came much closer with a flicked header from a Brady free-kick, but Hradecky tipped the ball over. 

Hradecky saved Finland once again in stoppage time, springing low to claw away a Curtis header.

Ireland deserved more, but that’s becoming a glumly familiar tune. 

Finland: Lukas Hradecky; Albin Granlund (Jukka Raitala, 85′), Paulus Arajuuri, Joona Toivio, Jere Uronen; Pyry Soiri (Ilmari Niskanen, 45′) Glen Kamara (Rasums Schuller, 74′) Robert Taylor, Tim Sparv; Fredrik Jensen (Joni Kauko, 85′), Teemu Pukki (Joel Pohjanpalo, 80′)

Republic of Ireland: Darren Randolph; Matt Doherty, Shane Duffy (captain), Dara O’Shea, Enda Stevens; Conor Hourihane, Jayson Molumby (Jason Knight, 83′); Daryl Horgan (Ronan Curtis, 74′) , Jeff Hendrick (Adam Idah, 74′), Aaron Connolly; Sean Maguire (Sean Maguire, 52′)

Referee: Lionel Tschudi (SUI)

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Gavin Cooney

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