Sunday 5 February 2023 Dublin: 0°C
As it happened: Moldova v Ireland, World Cup 2018 qualifier
The road to Russia continued tonight as Martin O’Neill’s men faced the minnows of Group D.

Good evening and welcome along to our live coverage of Ireland’s third World Cup qualifier as Martin O’Neill’s men face Moldova in Chișinău.

At the end of a relatively quiet sporting weekend, lets hope the Boys in Green can produce an improved performance and return home with all three points.

We’ll have all the build-up, and team news, between now and kick-off at 7.45pm.

Before we go any further, lets take a look at the team Martin O’Neill has selected for tonight’s Group D clash.

The big news is that Wes Hoolahan and Glenn Whelan are recalled to the starting XI. The pair come in for the suspended Jeff Hendrick and Robbie Brady, who misses out through injury.

All eyes are currently on the Cardiff City Stadium, where Wales are being held by Georgia with just six minutes left.

Gareth Bale gave the hosts the lead after just 10 minutes but Georgia, beaten in Dublin on Thursday, have responded well and hit back on the hour mark.

Wales v Georgia - 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying - Group D - Cardiff City Stadium EMPICS Sport EMPICS Sport

The Zimbru Stadium may only hold a little over 10,000 but there will be plenty of green in the ground tonight with flocks of Irish fans descending on the Moldovan capital.

A view of Stadionul Zimbru Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Joe Mackey and Shaun Murphy Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Marie Dwane, Georgina Humby and Angela Dwane Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

What a huge bonus for Ireland ahead of tonight’s game with Wales being held at home to Georgia. If O’Neill’s side win tonight and Serbia and Austria draw, the Boys in Green will be top of Group D after three games.

Although he previously stated that he didn’t want to be on the panel for Ireland games, Damien Duff joins Richie Sadlier and Didi Hamann on RTÉ tonight.

The former Ireland international insists that Moldova away ‘is a banana skin.’

Martin O’Neill appears somewhat tetchy in his pre-match interview with Tony O’Donoghue as he snaps back at a couple of fair questions from the RTÉ reporter.

Click here to watch video

Not long until kick-off now. Here are Sunday’s World Cup qualifying results so far and the rest of the games down for decision tonight.

Soccer WCup 2018 Ukraine Kosovo Alik Keplicz Alik Keplicz

Group D:

  • Wales (Bale 10) 1-1 Georgia (Okriashvili 57)
  • Serbia v Austria
  • Moldova v Ireland

Group G:

  • Israel (Hemed 4, 16) 2-1 Liechtenstein (Goppel 49)
  • Albania v Spain
  • Macedonia v Italy

Group I:

  • Ukraine (Kravets 31, Yarmolenko 81, Rotan 87) 3-0 Kosovo
  • Finland 0-1 Croatia (Mandzukic 18)
  • Iceland v Turkey

Here come the teams, and we’ll have the anthems before kick-off.

Kick-off! Ireland get us underway, playing from right to left as we look in this first half.

Dedov looks to run at Coleman at the first opportunity but the Ireland captain stands up and then wins the free-kick. Randolph then kicks it straight out of play. Not the best start for the visitors.

GOAL! Moldova 0-1 Ireland (Long)

That’s more like it! Beautiful ball from Hoolahan through to Long, who picks his spot in the corner.

It took just one minute and 56 seconds for Ireland to find the breakthrough goal and it was Shane Long’s first in 19 games for club and country. A huge confidence booster for the striker and everyone in green.

Ireland already cutting through the home defence at will and it could have been two, but Long couldn’t force it in at the front post. Much better from O’Neill’s side in the opening exchanges. There’s a real purpose to their passing and movement.

The home side looking for an instant reply. Bugayev runs down the right flank, forcing Duffy to come out of the centre. His cross is over-hit but Moldova recycle possession before the move peters out.

And here’s that Long goal. Hoolahan the creator with a perfectly-weighted ball through and the Southampton striker did the rest.


France, Oman, Serbia and now Moldova.

Ireland pressing again. Ward bombs down the left and his cross has Walters interested but it was just too high for the Stoke man. From the next passage of play, McClean has his first sight of goal.

Lovely link-up play down the right leads to Coleman getting to the byline. His cross is met by Long but he just didn’t get enough purchase on his header and it’s blocked.

In the other game in Group D, there has been a couple of early goals in Belgrade. Serbia took the lead over Austria but the visitors have just equalised. That game kicked-off at 7.45pm too.

Ireland win the first corner of the game but Duffy is penalised for climbing on the defender. 20 minutes gone.

Considering the start, it’s been pretty poor from Ireland thus far. Granted, the goal was well-worked but since then, the hosts have been allowed work themselves into the contest and the Moldova goalkeeper has yet to be really tested.

The home side, ranked 161 in the world, aren’t half-bad in possession either and certainly appear to have enough about them to trouble Ireland at some stage if it stays at 1-0.

Close! That was a little brighter — and Hoolahan was at the centre of it again. The Norwich playmaker controls it beautifully and tees Glenn Whelan up but his effort was never going to trouble the ‘keeper.

Alexandru Gatcan with James McCarthy Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Serbia are back in front in Belgrade, Aleksandar Mitrovic with his second of the night. As it stands, they top Group D on goal difference.

A great start from Ireland but, lets not pretend, it has been far from impressive since. A lot of aimless long balls being played and with 10 minutes until the break, you can’t say the visitors deserve anything more than they have.

Shane Long, meanwhile, wins a free-kick and this is a good position now with McCarthy and Hoolahan standing over it.

Hoolahan shifts it right to Whelan, but his low drive is blocked.

Long is clattered again and he’s down holding the back of his head. Ward’s free-kick sails over everyone and it’s out for a goal-kick.

Moldova growing in confidence as we head towards half-time. The hosts win their first corner and it wasn’t very well dealt with by the Irish defence. Eventually it’s cleared through McClean. Home fans just beginning to find their voice too.

Ireland win another free-kick just outside the area. There’s a queue waiting to take it but in the end McClean attempts to curl it and gets it horribly wrong.

GOAL! Moldova 1-1 Ireland (Bugayev)

Well, well, well. That’s so poor from Ireland as right on the stroke of half-time they gift the hosts an equaliser. Moldova break and Igor Bugayev keeps his cool to level proceedings but that was schoolboy defending.

Half-time! Moldova 1-1 Ireland 

That was a real sucker-punch right before half-time and now Ireland face a big 45 minutes of football. No changes for either side as the teams emerge from the dressing rooms.

Back underway at the Zimbru Stadium.

Bright start to the second half from the home side. Randolph’s handling is tested and then Duffy clatters into the back of the striker to give away a free-kick.

Ireland suddenly edgy defensively. The ball comes in and Randolph makes the wrong decision to come off his line and his attempted punch is weak. From the throw-in, Dedov goes down under the challenge of Duffy but the referee isn’t interested.

Wes Hoolahan with Gheorghe Andronic Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

This is really awful stuff. Having dominated much of the opening period, Ireland now find themselves in a real contest here and the locals are enjoying it.

Close! Ireland get their foot on the ball for the first time since the restart and Walters charges down the right after linking up with Coleman. His cross is met by McClean but his header lacked power and placement.

Then, Hoolahan collects the ball 40 yards from goal and everyone stands off, allowing the former Shels man to shoot but it’s straight at the goalkeeper.

Ireland just beginning to regain a semblance of control here after a shaky period either side of the break. What should have been a straightforward victory has turned into a nervy last 30 minutes in store.

Seems like a long time ago now as Moldova win another corner.

Moldova v Republic of Ireland - 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying - Group D - Zimbru Stadium PA Wire / Press Association Images PA Wire / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

Moldova making a second change and the pause in play gives O’Neill the opportunity to get some instructions on. It’s pretty grim at the moment, and that’s not stretching it either.

Long has gone down here and it looks like his race is run as he hobbles off with a hamstring problem. Callum O’Dowda is coming on in his place to make his competitive debut.

Walters goes up top with Long out of the action. Ireland now reverting to lumping it into the box. Already a hint of desperation.

Encouraging from O’Dowda. He skips past his man and floats an inviting cross to the back post but McClean is unable to get any power on the head when he should have been sending it back across the box.

Former Ireland striker Stephen Elliot isn’t impressed with McClean.

GOAL! Moldova 1-2 Ireland (McClean)

And there it is! McClean pops up to stroke it into the corner after the ball fell at his feet in the area.

The ends justify the means. It wasn’t pretty but we’ll surely take it in the circumstances and now Ireland need to press for a third instead of resting on their laurels. 19 minutes, plus injury time, remaining.

Moldova v Republic of Ireland - 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying - Group D - Zimbru Stadium PA Wire / Press Association Images PA Wire / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

As it stands, Ireland will finish the night top of Group D. Bit of composure needed now from O’Neill’s men and a third goal would certainly help in that regard.

GOAL! Moldova 1-3 Ireland (McClean)

That should be that. Coleman the provider and McClean seals the points with a lovely finish from six yards out.

That was superb from Hoolahan to set Coleman free. A little nutmeg created the space and Coleman put it on a plate for McClean to volley home and send the travelling supporters into delirium.

Ireland now in control as they head towards a comfortable victory but it was far from it either side of half-time. Credit to O’Neill’s side for coming back strongly and getting the job done but that 15 minute period was less than impressive.

Meanwhile, David Meyler is coming on for James McCarthy.

Final change for Ireland as Eunan O’Kane is introduced for Hoolahan.

Four minutes of added time at the end of this one.

Full-time! Moldova 1-3 Ireland

Job done for Ireland in Moldova tonight. Here’s our on-the-whistle report.

Moldova v Republic of Ireland - 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying - Group D - Zimbru Stadium PA Wire / Press Association Images PA Wire / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

That’s all from me tonight, thanks for joining us and we’ll have plenty of reaction on the site throughout the evening.

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