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Dublin: 6°C Thursday 26 November 2020


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Bulgaria 1-1 Ireland

Hello, and welcome to our Bulgaria-Ireland liveblog.

We’ll have the full teams for you shortly, but the fact that Stephen Kenny has made the bold choice of entrusting 19-year-old forward Adam Idah with a starting spot feels like a metaphor for the more adventurous approach that most fans hope this new era of Irish football will be characterised by.

Kenny has promised a more attractive brand of football, but that’s easier said than done.

It will be fascinating to see how much of the new manager’s style will be adopted by the players instantaneously, given that he has only had a short time to work with them so far.

Bulgaria away won’t be an especially easy tie, though they are currently ranked 59th in the Fifa rankings — 25 places below Ireland.

Confirmation of that intriguing Ireland starting XI…

Stephen Kenny’s thoughts ahead of the game…

Bulgaria will line out as follows…

1. Georgiev 2. Popov 3. Zanev 5. Dimitrov 14. Nedyalkov 16. Malinov 7. Kostadinov 18. Ivanov 10. Kraev 9. Delev 8. Nedelev

Subs: 4. Goranov 6. Gusmao 11. Karabelyov 12. Slavov Rabotov 13. Mihaylov 15. Galabov 17. Karagaren 19. Isa Mustafa 20. Iliev 21. Yavorov Krastev 22. Tsvetkov 23. Lukov

Who do you think will win?

Poll Results:

Ireland (782)
Draw (521)
Bulgaria (226)

stephen-kenny-ahead-of-the-game Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny ahead of the game. Source: Kostadin Andonov/INPHO

“It’s been a pretty interminable wait: since the day Kenny was unveiled in 2018, we’ve had seven senior men’s competitive goals, six FAI CEOs, five senior men’s wins, four Oireachtas Sport Committee meetings, three teenage Premier League debuts, two senior men’s managers, and one Ballybrack footballer rise from the dead.

Read Gav Cooney’s full pre-match preview here.

Interestingly, Niall Quinn is one of the pundits for Virgin Media tonight.

We’re underway…

Early half-chance for Bulgaria.

Popov gets on the end of a cross, but his header is tame and comfortably gathered by Randolph.

members-of-staff-adhere-to-social-distancing-ahead-of-the-game Members of staff adhere to social distancing ahead of the game. Source: Kostadin Andonov/INPHO

Idah lays it off to Hourihane, who hits a half-volley wide from the edge of the area.

There’s been plenty of patient build-up play by Ireland so far.

As I type, Dimitrov gets an inch ahead of Duffy, but his header from a free kick is straight at Randolph.

Good positive play by O’Dowda.

He dribbles at the Bulgarian defence, before being tripped by Kostadinov and winning a free kick in a dangerous area.

The ensuing delivery from Hourihane is disappointing though, and comfortably cleared by the hosts.

Connolly wins the ball off Dimitrov as Bulgaria unsuccessfully try to play it out from the back.

The Brighton youngster then curls the ball just wide from a tricky angle when he might have been better off crossing to an unmarked Idah.

Not too much of note happening in recent minutes.

Ireland have continued to look pretty comfortable, without posing too much of a threat.

The midfield of Hourihane, McCarthy and Hendrick has looked pretty solid so far, and controlled the majority of the play.

Enda Stevens gets booked for colliding with Nedelev, who was seemingly trying to block his run.

Judging by replays, that looked a little harsh, as the Sheffield United full-back basically just ran into his opponent, who didn’t exactly do his best to get out of the way.

Ireland are nearly caught on the counter, after Doherty misplaces a pass as a promising attack breaks down.

A brilliant crossfield pass finds Nedelev, whose attempted lob can’t find the target and goes over the bar.

georgi-georgiev-punches-under-pressure-from-jon-egan-and-aaron-connolly Bulgaria goalkeeper Georgi Georgiev punches under pressure from Jon Egan and Aaron Connolly of Ireland. Source: Kostadin Andonov/INPHO

A Hendrick through pass is deflected into the path of Connolly, but Georgiev is out quickly to block his shot.

It wouldn’t have mattered anyway, as the Brighton youngster was ruled offside.

Randolph does well to get out quickly and get to a through ball ahead of the onrushing Ivanov.

He used his arms to intercept and there are Bulgarian claims he did so outside of the box, with Randolph’s momentum causing him to slide away from the area.

The referee ignores these protests, and it’s hard to tell even from replays whether he did or not.

Hourihane produces an excellent delivery into the box.

An onrushing Doherty gets on the end of it, but he can’t quite get a proper connection on his header, which goes well over the bar.

Ireland break with pace.

Hendrick does well to use his strength and win the ball, before playing to Stevens down the left.

The Sheffield United star’s cross finds O’Dowda, who can’t quite steer his effort on target, as he doesn’t get a proper connection on it.

So half-time and there have been some encouraging signs from an Irish perspective.

Ireland have had marginally the better of the play. They’ve been patient in the build-up and played some good football.

Connolly probably had the best chance, when he shot just wide from a tight angle, with Idah free in the box.

Bulgaria have had one or two half chances, but haven’t consistently threatened, with Ireland’s midfield of Jeff Hendrick, James McCarthy and Conor Hourihane doing a decent job of protecting the backline.

It’s been a bit stop-start and scrappy at times. Kenny will therefore be hoping Ireland can play with a bit more fluidity after the break.

anton-nedyalkov-gets-to-the-ball-before-adam-idah Bulgaria's Anton Nedyalkov gets to the ball before Adam Idah of Ireland. Source: Kostadin Andonov/INPHO

The second half has begun…

Bulgaria started the half positively, as Ivanov tests Randolph with a shot from distance.

Since then, Ireland have controlled possession without posing much of a threat.

Nedelev curls a decent free kick from the edge of the area that Randolph does well to hold onto.

Down the other end, Idah helps it on to Connolly, whose attempt on the half volley takes a deflection, before being parried away by Georgiev.

Out of nothing, Bulgaria take the lead.

Nedelev picks out Kraev with an incisive pass, and the attacker produces a fine finish.

That’s disappointing from an Irish point of view. Hourihane gave the ball away initially, while Kraev managed to find space in between Duffy and Egan.

Connolly does well, after good work from Stevens.

The Brighton youngster drives a ball across the box, but there is no one in the right place to convert it.

Egan bursts forward and shoots from distance, but Georgiev makes a relatively comfortable save.

There is a greater sense of purpose to Ireland’s play since going behind.

Hendrick shows good footwork to escape from two players on the edge of the area, before overhitting his pass.

There have been some familiar failings in this game, with Ireland lacking composure in key attacking moments.

Ireland make their first substitution of the evening and it’s an attacking one.

James McCarthy is replaced by Robbie Brady.

That seemingly means Hendrick and Hourihane will be the deep-lying midfielders, with Brady the more advanced of the trio.

Another change for Ireland.

Callum O’Dowda, who has faded after a bright opening, is replaced by Callum Robinson.

They could do with a bit of inspiration — the game feels very flat at the moment.

Now it’s Bulgaria’s turn to make a change.

Delev is replaced by Karagaren.

And a final change for Ireland.

Idah, who hasn’t had the best of nights and has looked tired in recent minutes, is replaced by Shane Long.

Another change for Bulgaria

Galabov is on for Zanev.

Chance for Bulgaria!

Karagaren latches on to a through pass and gets in behind John Egan, before dragging his shot wide.

As Ireland push players forward, they are at greater risk of a counter-attacking sucker punch.

As I type, the hosts make a final change. Nedelev is replaced by Tsvetkov.

The Irish players are starting to look a little leggy.

It’s not really surprising, given that we are still in pre-season.

Duffy gets on the end of Brady’s corner, but his header goes wide.

Three minutes of normal time remain.

There will be five minutes of stoppage time.

As I type, a hopeful Callum Robinson effort goes well off target.

Ireland have equalised, and it’s a familiar-looking goal.

A deep Robbie Brady corner is met by Shane Duffy, and the defender’s firm header finds the corner of the net.

Looks like the Stephen Kenny era will start with that most typical of Ireland results — the 1-1 draw.

That’s that.

On the balance of play, Ireland deserved at least a point.

They had more of the play, with Bulgaria rarely threatening in a game that produced few clear-cut opportunities for either side.

It’s not really a start befitting of the excitement that has greeted the onset of the Kenny era, but it was always going to take time for the new manager to implement his style.

Indeed, the last-gasp equaliser from Shane Duffy was the type of goal that characterised much of the Martin O’Neill and Mick McCarthy eras.

Right, that’s all from me for now.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

You can read our match report here, and we’ll have more reaction to follow.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy


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