Stephen Kenny points to consistent improvement after 'overdue' Ireland win

3-0 victory over Azerbaijan marks Ireland’s biggest win in a competitive game since 2015.

Kenny: first competitive win in his 13th attempt.
Kenny: first competitive win in his 13th attempt.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

STEPHEN KENNY HAILED a first competitive win he described as “overdue” in Baku tonight.

Two goals from Callum Robinson and a late header by Chiedozie Ogbene gave Kenny his first competitive win in his 13th attempt, and the 3-0 scoreline marks Ireland’s biggest win in a competitive game since 2015.

“From our point of view the win was overdue,” said Kenny.

“It’s important. To win 3-0 away from home in a qualifier is rare. Azerbaijan have been dangerous opponents for many teams, they have been very tight games. To win 3-0 was terrific.

“That’s just one defeat in the last seven games, and that was the late goal by Ronaldo against Portugal, so I feel we are improving all the time.”

Callum Robinson was the star of the show, scoring twice in the first-half, celebrating his first goal by plugging his fingers in his ears in unsubtle reference to the criticism he has attracted this week since revealing he has yet to take a Covid-19 vaccine.

“We have missed him when he hasn’t been available,” said Kenny.

“He’s a very creative player and versatile player. He’s quite intelligent, the positions he takes up and the decisions he makes.

“It’s ironic he probably had three or four easier chances than the two he scored. The two he scored were outstanding finishes. The volley he had that was just over the bar was a brilliant technical effort. He did terrific for us today.”

Robinson has twice caught Covid prior to international matches, and his positive test in August meant he missed the defeat in Portugal and wasn’t fit to start the subsequent home games against Azerbaijan and Serbia. When asked what the side needs to improve from here, the manager stressed the availability of the key members of his squad.

“Have all of our better players available more regularly which is very important for us.

“We have undergone a change in system in that period from March onwards, it suits the players we have. We are learning all the time, the players are improving all the time, and improving our attacking play. We created a lot of chances today, our ratio of goals per chances, we would like that to be better overall. Thankfully Callum Robinson’s first two goals were outstanding strikes.”

Chiedozie Ogbene sat beside Kenny during the post-match press conference, and elaborated on what a first win means for the squad before reflecting on what his first international goal means to him.

“Obviously the mood is high in the dressing room, 3-0 away from home is a great result for us, the manager and the nation,” said Ogbene.

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“As Steve said, it’s a result overdue. All of us have made a lot of sacrifices, we have taken a lot of criticism on the way here. We deserve it, we deserve to be happy tonight and we need to maximise the occasion and enjoy it to the most.

“To score my first goal is overwhelming. Obviously my family and my friends.

“I owe it to the gaffer for believing in me. The squad we had tonight, anyone could have come on. For him to believe in me and bring me on is a special night for me, my family, the team and the nation.”

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Gavin Cooney  / Reports from Baku Olympic Stadium

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