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Dublin: 8°C Thursday 22 October 2020


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Ireland 0-1 Finland

Hello, and welcome to today’s liveblog.

Ireland will be hoping to improve on a slightly subdued performance away to Bulgaria on Thursday amid a 1-1 draw.

Three changes in midfield suggest Kenny wasn’t totally happy with that aspect to the play in Sofia.

There has already been one significant result in Ireland’s group today, with Wales beating Bulgaria.

It means Ryan Giggs’ men are top of the group on six points, with Ireland and Bulgaria on one point and Finland on 0 points, with the group winners set to be promoted to League A.

Stephen Kenny’s men will consequently be aiming to close the gap with a positive result this evening.

Confirmation of the Ireland team…

Ireland XI: Darren Randolph; Matt Doherty, John Egan, Shane Duffy, Enda Stevens; Harry Arter, Jayson Molumby, Robbie Brady; Callum O’Dowda, Aaron Connolly, Adam Idah.

Subs: Caoimhin Kelleher, Mark Travers, Darragh Lenihan, Seamus Coleman, Alan Browne, James McClean, James McCarthy, Conor Hourihane, Callum Robinson Jeff Hendrick, David McGoldrick, Shane Lo

Who do you think will win?

Poll Results:

Ireland (409)
Draw (256)
Finland (158)

We’re underway…

Ireland have started on the frontfoot, with a Robbie Brady cross gathered by Hrádecky.

Down the other end, Egan makes a good tackle to stop Taylor running on to Pukki’s layoff.

It’s been similar to the Bulgaria game so far.

Ireland have tried to pass the ball and play good football, but it’s been very scrappy and stop-start with neither team really threatening yet.

Taylor slides a ball through to Pukki, as Stevens plays him onside.

The Norwich man is one-on-one, but Randolph gets down well to make the save.

O’Dowda’s low cross is cut out, before it falls to Arter, whose pot shot from the edge of the area is comfortably saved.

Better from Ireland.

Arter finds himself in a decent position out wide, but badly overhits his cross.

Ireland really haven’t got going in attack yet.

It’s just a little bit slow and laboured from Ireland on the ball at the moment.

You can certainly tell the players are still in pre-season.

Taylor’s corner is headed over by Ojala.

Finland have probably had the better of these opening stages, while rarely looking particularly threatening.

Stevens’ cross just misses Idah and Brady in the box.

That final ball just hasn’t been quite good enough so far for the hosts.

Down the other end, Pohjanpalo mishits a volley from Alho’s well-executed cross.

Aaron Connolly charges forward, but barges over Alho as he does so and is penalised.

The Brighton youngster hasn’t really had many chances to influence the play yet.

It hasn’t been the most exciting of games so far, but Ireland are sticking to their principles by trying to keep the ball on the ground and patiently build up play.

According to the BBC, they’ve had 54% possession so far and one shot on target compared with Finland’s two.

So half-time and it’s been far from enthralling.

It’s a similar story to the Bulgaria game, with Ireland trying to keep the ball but creating very few chances.

A Harry Arter pot shot that didn’t trouble the goalkeeper unduly was their one shot on target, while Teemu Pukki had by far the best chance of the game, with Darren Randolph getting down well to make the save.

The newly introduced midfield trio haven’t really been an improvement yet.

The build-up play is very slow. Perhaps a lack of match sharpness can partially be blamed for the lack of intensity characterising this game.

Hopefully, a better second half awaits.

The second half has begun…

Good positive play from Connolly.

He takes on Alho wide left and is taken down, winning a free kick.

However, Egan can’t quite get a proper connection with a header from Brady’s subsequent delivery.

Another promising attack as Brady spreads it to Stevens, but the cross is straight into the goalkeeper’s arms.

Ireland are at least playing with a bit more purpose in this second half.

Finland try to play it out from the back but Brady wins it.

He finds Idah, who lays it to Connolly, but the Brighton attacker can only find the side netting from a tight angle when through on goal.

Shortly thereafter, O’Dowda curls an effort just wide from the edge of the area.

Ireland have been better in this second half, passing the ball with more speed and incision. 

O’Dowda appears to have taken a knock.

He is replaced by Callum Robinson, who also came on in the Bulgaria game.

Out of nothing, Finland are ahead and it’s a substitute who makes an immediate impact.

Jenson scores 18 seconds after he replaces Pohjanpalo.

Pukki splits the defence with a clever pass, before Taylor’s perfectly weighted low cross is converted with a simple tap-in by the new man.

Ireland make a change almost immediately, with McGoldrick replacing Idah.

Ireland go close twice in quick succession.

Firstly, a Robinson cross just misses Connolly.

Then, Robinson wins it as Finland try to play out from the back.

He then lays it to McGoldrick, but Ojala makes an excellent recovery tackle after losing it initially.

Doherty plays through Robinson, but the attacker’s shot from a tight angle is saved by Hrádecky.

Ireland have had a much better half in terms of chance creation, but the scoreline unfortunately does not reflect that improvement.

As I type, Pukki finds space in the area, but his effort is straight at Randolph.

The game is getting much more open as Ireland search for an equaliser.

Taylor sprints through after Doherty misplaces a pass, and his shot is well saved by Randolph.

Meanwhile, Ireland make a final change, with McClean on in place of Connolly.

McClean’s cross goes straight into Hrádecky’s arms.

With 10 minutes remaining, Ireland look a little short on inspiration.

You get the feeling another set piece could be their best hope.

As I type, Pukki finds space on the edge of the area, turning sharply and shooting just wide.

Finland are doing well at the moment.

They’re keeping the ball and taking the sting out of the game.

As I type, Pukki wades through midfield and plays in Alho, whose curled shot is brilliantly tipped over by Randolph.

Arter receives the ball on the edge of the area.

His low shot is deflected just wide.

From the ensuing corner, Brady finds the head of Duffy, but the new Celtic signing steers it just over the bar.

There will be four minutes of stoppage time.

Finland make a late change, with Pukki replaced by Karjalainen.

Ireland counter and McGoldrick takes a shot on that is relatively comfortably saved.

The striker had options either side of him and may have been better laying it off.

Well, that’s that. Stephen Kenny’s first home game in charge ends in defeat.

It’d be hard to begrudge Finland their victory. They had the better chances and coped reasonably well with what Ireland threw at them.

There were occasional bright moments, with the Irish substitutions injecting more energy and helping to create some chances, and it will obviously take time for Stephen Kenny to impose his philosophy, but overall, it’s a pretty unsatisfactory 90 minutes for the Boys in Green.

There is the caveat that it’s still pre-season and most of the players aren’t fully match fit, but it doesn’t exactly inspire huge confidence ahead of that crucial play-off against Slovakia next month.

Not many players have done enough to justify a starting spot ahead of that game, and Kenny seemingly has been presented with more questions than answers after his first two games in charge.

finland-players-celebrate-after-scoring-the-first-goal-of-the-game Finland players celebrate after scoring the first goal of the game. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Right, that’s all from me.

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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