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Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Paul Lennon

Scotland 2-1 Ireland: Harsh lesson handed out to young Irish side as result slips away from them

RYAN Christie's 82nd minute penalty condemned Ireland to a harsh Nations League defeat at Hampden Park tonight.

The midfielder's cool finish sent Gavin Bazunu the wrong way after Swiss referee Sandro Scharer adjudged that Alan Browne's raised arm was in an unnatural position inside the box as it blocked Scott McTaminay's header from John McGinn's corner.

A check by VaR agreed with the ref's decision and the game's latest laws would back up the official's view even if the furious response from the Irish players reflected the view that it was tough on the visitors.

READ MORE: Scotland vs Ireland player ratings: Nathan Collins and John Egan impress but Matt Doherty's rustiness shows

But as the Boys In Green reflect on the cruel twists that football can inflict, the reality is that this third defeat in five Group B1 games leaves Stephen Kenny's side battling relegation against Armenia on Tuesday night.

This performance by the Irish had much to offer in the first half that saw John Egan score in the 18th minute.

But the home side levelled through Jack Hendry's 49th minute and they will argue that their second period display merited the three points that takes them to the top of the group.

Steve Clarke's men go to Krakow on Tuesday to face Ukraine knowing that a draw will see them be promoted to League A.

For the Irish, avoiding defeat against Armenia will see them stay up but it's hardly a commendable comment on this campaign.

Ireland's woes began at the start of this campaign and this offering was more in line with the 1-1 draw with Ukraine in Lodz than the awful 1-0 defeats to the Armenians and Ukrainians in early June.

The central defence was very solid although Matt Doherty endured a game to forget and was poor for the Christie cross that led to Hendry's equaliser.

Josh Cullen and Jayson Molumby were excellent in the middle of the park while Michael Obafemi and his replacement Chiedozie Ogbene gave the home defence a series of problems with their pace and skill.

However, Troy Parrott and, for periods, Jason Knight dipped below what was required.

Ukraine's routine 5-0 dismissal of Armenia in Yerevan earlier in the day had sent Ukraine back to the top of the group on ten points, one ahead of the Scots.

This result only served to underline the disastrous start to the campaign by the Irish who lost 1-0 to both the Armenians and Ukrainians - Kenny's men marooned in third place on just four points.

Kenny's decision to omit Shane Duffy to include Dara O'Shea sparked pre-match debate given the Derry man's many attributes, not least leadership and aerial dominance in both boxes.

To be fair to O'Shea, his superb evening's work in Lodz in June in the 1-1 draw with Ukraine meant that nobody could have fears over his pedigree at this level.

In attack, Obafemi got the nod ahead of Ogbene, a close call on the basis of the strikers' recent club output.

The Scots - buoyed by their superb 3-0 midweek defeat of Ukraine - started brightly and McTominay's low eighth minute cross might have caused problems but for Dara O'Shea's timely connection that took the sting out of the delivery to allow Bazunu to comfortably collect.

But the home side's tendency to over-elaborate with passing and Ireland's strong pressing game slowed them down.

The Irish took full advantage of this after 11 minutes as the lively Obafemi latched on to O'Shea's pass to race towards Gordon's goal, finally finishing into the net only for the linesman's flag to be correctly raised for offside.

Obafemi was again the thorn in the Scottish defence in the 17th minute, his pace putting real fear into McKenna and Hendry as he teed up Parrott whose shot from an angle was blocked by McKenna at the expense of a corner.

McClean's arrival from his left wing berth to deliver the corner from the right in front of the loudest section of the Tartan Army triggered the expected chorus of boos.

McClean directed his corner to the far post where Lyndon Dykes' header cleared the immediate danger only for Jayson Molumby's determined header to send the ball back into the throng of players.

Collins reacted first to tee up Egan whose instinctive and immediate right foot drive beat Gordon low at his near post to register his second Ireland goal.

The goal stunned the Scots while injecting further belief into the Irish who had grown into the game.

It was not until the 28th minute that Clarke's side mustered a response but when Stuart Armstrong's inviting cross from the right picked out John McGinn 14 yards out, the skipper winning his 50th cap completely fluffed his lines to shoot well wide.

The Scots were now beginning to build some momentum but the 41st minute loss through injury of Kieran Tierney meant that Clarke had now lost his second left wing back following Andy Robertson's earlier ailment.

Josh Cullen's silly booking during first half stoppage time for kicking the ball away might have been followed by a second 45 seconds later for a bad foul on Aaron Hickey.

Clarke's first period touchline frustrations obviously sparked a few choice words in the dressing room at the interval for his side was transformed on the restart.

By the 49th minute they were level when Ryan Christie was given far too much room by Matt Doherty whose dinked cross picked out the unmarked Hendry with the centre half heading home inside the far post.

Doherty sought to repair the damage with a fine run deep into the Scottish half but his curling shot flew wide when he was fed by Molumby's pass.

Ryan Christie slots their late penalty home (©INPHO/Ryan Byrne)

McGinn then fired narrowly wide with the game once more opening up.

O'Shea's strong evening continued when he expertly blocked Dykes shot on the turn in the 55th minute but a minute later Parrott's composure completely deserted him when sent in one on one on Gordon by the outstanding Obafemi.

With ample time to seek to round the keeper , his rushed shot was easily parried by the keeper at the expense of a corner.

Obafemi made way for Chiedozie Ogbene on the hour mark with the Swansea City marksman obviously tired although Parrott might have been a better option at this stage.

Ogbene's blistering pace immediate forced substitute Anthony Ralston to hit a pacy back pass to Gordon with the keeper striking Ogbene with his rushed clearance, the ball fortunately, for him, flying into his hands.

But it was the Irish goal that then began to lead a charmed life as Collins and O'Shea made superb clearances from under their own crossbar in the space of a few minutes.

Kenny then sent in Callum Robinson, Seamus Coleman and Alan Browne for Parrott, Doherty and Molumby in the 78th minute.

Unfortunately, within two minutes Browne handled McTominay's header from McGinn's corner with the resulting penalty somewhat harsh but within the current laws of the game which VaR then confirmed.

Christie stroked his spot kick home to leave the Irish with a huge task to even salvage a point.

But while the visitors did mount a decent finale, they failed to test Gordon or threaten their goal.

Adams spurned a decent opportunity to add to Scotland's lead deep into injury time while substitute Robbie Brady's booking summed up a half to forget for Kenny's men.


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