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Brady's late header adds gloss to uninspiring Ireland win over Gibraltar

The Burnley midfielder came off the bench to score in a 2-0 victory in tonight’s Euro 2020 qualifier.

Robbie Brady celebrates his goal Robbie Brady celebrates after putting Ireland 2-0 up against Gibraltar. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Republic of Ireland 2
Gibraltar 0

– Paul Dollery reports from Aviva Stadium

FILE THIS ONE in ‘the result is all that matters’ pile, because the performance featured few — if any — positives.

For most of this game it appeared as though the difference between the Republic of Ireland and lowly Gibraltar was set to be the 29th-minute own goal from Joseph Chipolina.

Robbie Brady’s stoppage-time header added gloss to the scoreline on a frustrating night for Ireland manager Mick McCarthy, whose side’s struggles in front of goal are undoubtedly a concern.

Tonight, at least, they scored more than once in a game for the first time since McCarthy returned for a second spell at the helm, but we’re scraping the barrel here in search of something encouraging about this forgettable contest.

The Ireland boss made two adjustments to his team from Friday’s 1-1 draw against Denmark. Having played all 90 minutes in Copenhagen, Glenn Whelan dropped down to the bench, where he was joined by Robbie Brady, who was replaced in the 65th minute in the Danish capital.

Preston North End’s Callum Robinson and Scott Hogan of Aston Villa were the beneficiaries in a more attack-minded line-up, with both players handed an ideal opportunity to open their goalscoring accounts at senior international level. Robinson operated wide on the right, with Hogan the offensive focal point.

The Ireland team bus broke down en route to the ground from their hotel in Castleknock, and it soon became clear that the players were in need of a jump-start too.

The earliest signs were promising, nevertheless, as the hosts went close twice inside the opening three minutes. Shane Duffy, the hero of Copenhagen, headed a Conor Hourihane cross just over the crossbar. David McGoldrick then missed the target, having been played in when Hogan neatly helped Seamus Coleman’s pass into his path.

But Gibraltar set out to frustrate Ireland and — for the majority of the first half — they succeeded. The visitors’ commitment to a high press often resulted in the ball being exchanged between Shane Duffy and Richard Keogh as Ireland sought to be patient in their bid to pick holes.

The Boys in Green spent plenty of time in the final third, but their lack of invention and sloppiness in possession was a cause of frustration for many of the 36,281 spectators in attendance.

At the other end of the pitch, the home side were given little to worry about by a Gibraltar team who lacked the quality to threaten Darren Randolph’s goal, despite occasionally showing their faces in its vicinity.

Callum Robinson with Louie Annesley Ireland's Callum Robinson is tackled by Louie Annesley of Gibraltar. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The crowd grew edgy when James McClean was robbed of possession by Liam Walker, which almost resulted in Gibraltar catching Ireland on the break. Walker was ultimately unable to pick out Tjay De Barr on the overlap.

Moments later, Ireland had the lead. However, there was more than a hint of good fortune about the goal. Robinson’s inside pass for McGoldrick was instead diverted to Coleman via the feet of two separate Gibraltar defenders. The Ireland captain eventually found McGoldrick, whose first-time shot would have drifted harmlessly wide if it hadn’t struck the unfortunate Joseph Chipolina. While the search for a first international goal continued for McGoldrick, Ireland were finally in the ascendancy.

Eager to make an impression, Robinson and Hogan were both lively in attack. They each had their chances, with Robinson going particularly close on a couple of occasions in the opening period.

Gibraltar were more vulnerable after falling behind, and Robinson almost capitalised on 34 minutes when his clever back-heel from Coleman’s low cross was inches away from creeping inside the far post. Just before the break, the Preston attacker cut in from the right and unleashed a fine in-swinging effort that also wasn’t far away.

Ireland laid siege to Kyle Goldwin’s goal upon the resumption of play. The Gibraltar goalkeeper kept out close-range efforts from Hogan and McGoldrick early on, before denying Hogan again in the 66th minute when the Ireland striker attempted to beat him at his near post.

The Irish onslaught continued, although clear-cut chances were more scarce than Mick McCarthy would have liked. On 72 minutes, McGoldrick did well to create space for himself in the box, only to see his effort strike the post.

The second goal finally arrived in additional time. McClean searched for Brady at the back post, and the Burnley midfielder got in ahead of Ethan Jolley to head home.

Ireland, the Group D leaders, resume their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign at home to Switzerland on 5 September.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Darren Randolph; Seamus Coleman (c), Shane Duffy, Richard Keogh, Enda Stevens; Conor Hourihane, Jeff Hendrick; Callum Robinson (Robbie Brady, 73), David McGoldrick, James McClean; Scott Hogan (Sean Maguire, 66).

GIBRALTAR: Kyle Goldwin; John Sergeant, Roy Chipolina (c), Joseph Chipolina, Jayce Olivero; Louie Annesley, Andrew Hernandez (Ethan Jolley, 77); Lee Casciaro (Anthony Bardon, 10), Liam Walker, Alain Pons (Ethan Britto, 64); Tjay De Barr.

Referee: Radu Petrescu (Romania).

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Paul Dollery

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