Seamus Coleman scores first international goal as Ireland squeeze past Georgia
Martin O'Neill's side picked up maximum points after an unconvincing 1-0 win at the Aviva Stadium22:14 Thursday 6 October 2016, 22:14 6 Oct 2016
Seamus Coleman's first goal in an Irish shirt was enough to ensure Martin O'Neill's side picked up maximum points in what turned out to be a wholly unimpressive 1-0 win.
A limp first half showed all the signs of a narrow win or perhaps even an upset as Georgia knocked on the door, but Ireland did just enough to squeeze by their group D counterparts and make it eight wins from eight against the visitors.
In recent years, clashes with Georgia were won by a single goal and based on the opening 45 minutes, it looked like it would be more of the same.
After the interval, Seamus Coleman picked up the ball on the right wing and drove at the Georgian defence. After skipping by two challenges, the Donegal man was lucky to latch on to two rebounds and basically dribbled the ball over the line in one of the most bizarre goals you will see during this qualifying campaign.
Ireland didn't exactly spark the game to life in the opening stages, with James McClean, Shane Long and Jonathan Walters all finding it incredibly difficult to make any sort of headway into the Georgian area.
McClean had a good chance in the opening ten minutes when Long skipped by his marker - and one would argue was taken down - managed to pull the ball back for the West Brom midfielder but his low drive was blocked.
The Irish midfield failed to impose itself physically and while Brady was keen to drop and collect possession off the Stephen Ward and Shane Duffy, his high pumped passes usually resulted in goal-kicks.
Coleman, who looked shaky at times, then pumped a long ball into the back post for McClean to attack but his header was scrambled clear by the Georgian netminder, Giorgi Loria.
Georgia grew increasingly comfortable in possession and, despite having the better of the opening 10 minutes, Ireland insisted in dropping back to invite attack after attack which could have resulted in Martin O'Nell's men going behind.
Tornike Okriashvilli picked up the ball to the right of the box after a half clearance by the Irish defence and got his head up to pick out Valeri Kazaishvilli just outside the six yard box. Kazaishvilli swiveled and got his shot away, but it was to the left of Randolph's post. It was the first real chance of the match, but still failed to wake Ireland from their slumber.
The tempo of the game was consistently scuppered with the decision to pump long high ball behind the full backs which would eventually be cleared. While you couldn't discount the effort McClean showed up the left channel, time and again Giorgi Navalovski was more than a match his power and pace.
As the game limped past the half hour mark, Georgia had the chance to stun an admittedly vocal home crowd and went within inches of taking the lead. A corner not dealt with by the Irish defence was then flashed back across goal and a looping header from Levan Mchedlidze struck the bar and came back into the box. The rebound was tipped onto the post as Irish players scrambled fervently to finally clear the ball.
There were more positive signs after the break and after the goal Walters and Hendrick began to find their rhythm. Their passing was executed with more purpose than the opening 45 and chances became more frequent.
McCleans shot from range was fumbled by Loria in the Georgian goal and finally collected, while Walters had the a chance to tee up Long but his cross as cut out.
Ireland should have killed off the game in the final minutes, McClean's free header rattling the cross bar was enough to keep nerves jangling until the final whistle.
Uninspiring, unimpressive and difficult to imagine that this was a side who put it up to some of the best in the world during the European Championships only four months ago. But let's not lose sight of what was really important tonight; three points and a clean sheet.
Regardless of the manner you would have taken that before the game. The performance? Needs work.
The very best bits delivered every weekSubscribe now