2022 World Cup Qualifier
Luxembourg 0-3 Republic of Ireland
Three second-half goals saw Ireland secure a hard-fought 3-0 victory away in Luxembourg to wrap up their World Cup qualifying campaign.
Shane Duffy opened the scoring from a well-worked free-kick midway through the second half, before Chiedozie Ogbene added a second in the 75th minute.
Stephen Kenny’s side wrapped up the victory in the final stages as Callum Robinson tapped home, as Ireland finished the ill-fated campaign in third place while maintaining their recent momentum and form.
Adam Idah and James McClean were brought into the team, as the manager said that he wanted to freshen the team up following the endeavours against Portugal, with an emphasis on pace and energy.
But in truth, the Irish outfit looked second best and a touch sloppy in the opening exchanges with Luxembourg the more composed team, playing with confidence at their compact new stadium.
And the home side even had half a shout for a penalty as a clipped Gerson Rodrigues ball landed on the top of John Egan’s arm.
There was no VAR review for the innocuous incident, however, it did spark Ireland into life as Chiedozie Ogbene’s pace began to cause Luxembourg problems and put them on the back foot.
Ireland created two Robinson chances inside two minutes as a result, and the second forced Ralph Schon to make a decent save to work the left-footed effort around the post.
In the 14th minute, it was Ireland’s turn to appeal for a spot-kick but it was also waved away as Idah was bundled over in the box as he was first to a clever ball worked in from midfield.
But it was Ogbene who was causing real issues for the home side, twice getting by the last man on the left flank with just the final ball letting down some excellent play by the Cork man.
Luxembourg then almost handed Ireland a gift as Idah closed down the keeper inside the box with the ball squirting out to Robinson on the edge of the box.
Opting against the first-time effort, Robinson took a touch but was upended before he could get inside the box, resulting in a caution for midfielder Martins.
The free and resulting corner failed to test the Luxembourg goal as Ireland again failed to make the most of set-piece opportunities.
Gavin Bazunu had been a spectator for the opening 22 minutes, but then the young keeper was forced to pull off a world class save to keep it scoreless.
Olivier Thill found space outside the box and had time to strike one from 25 yards. The well-hit effort was deflected en route to the goal but the ball was spinning ferociously back inside the post before Bazunu went full stretch to make a vital save.
A real open contest at this stage with the home side maintaining their attacking intentions, while leaving space at the back for Ireland to exploit.
Then in the 40th minute, Ireland almost took the lead as first Robinson’s shot was blocked before Martins casually rolled the ball into the path of Ogbene.
The Rotherham man took a touch and blasted it on target, but somehow the keeper got fingertips on it to take it over the bar.
Ireland finally worked the keeper from a corner on the stroke of half-time, but again Schon saved well to tip Egan’s header away to safety and keep it level at the break.
James McClean’ poor touch prevented Ireland from making an immediate impact after the break as the ball was worked in from the right.
But then it was the home side’s chance to grab the opening goal as Duffy’s ball out of defence was intercepted and played right into the path of the unmarked Gerson.
With Bazunu out of position, the Luxembourg talisman should have clipped the ball into the net, yet somehow played his shot too close to the Ireland goalkeeper, who got down to his left to gather.
A Matt Doherty speculative effort flew over in the 53rd minute, before Luxembourg thought that they had taken the lead 60 seconds later as Danel Sinani slammed the ball into the back of the net.
However, the goal was chalked off as the referee finally blew for an earlier push on Duffy for the initial ball into the box.
Luxembourg were now in the ascendancy as they started to dominate and maintain the play inside the Ireland half, which forced Kenny into his first change, bringing Jason Knight on for Idah in the 62nd minute, and changing to a two-pronged attack.
And it brought the desired effect as Ireland gained a bit more control in midfield, leading to a McClean ball across face, which forced the keeper to punch clear.
Knight was then taken down on the left edge of the box in the 66th minute, which resulted in a free-kick in a very dangerous position.
And then the deadlock was broken as Duffy arrived at the back post to get the final touch from a clever curling Cullen effort as the keeper was deceived by a flick off his defender’s head.
The obligatory VAR check would come and go as there was no offside infringement and Ireland had the lead.
Eight minutes later, Ireland doubled the advantage following an excellent move involving 14 passes from the orange-clad Irishmen.
It looked like the move had come a cropper before Ogbene hustled for possession on the right flank and fed Jeff Hendrick who clipped a delightful ball to the advanced Knight.
The Derby County youngster cleverly backheeled into the path of the arriving Ogbene who got in ahead of Laurent Jans and lifted the ball into the back of the net.
Robinson then had a chance to wrap it up following a mix-up at the back with 12 minutes remaining, but the keeper saved, while Luxembourg had a moment to get back in the game a minute later, however, Egan took the ball off Barreiro’s foot as he was about to shoot from close range.
But as the 90th minute approached, Ireland secured the victory following a move down the left as McClean whipped a searching ball across to the arriving Knight, who helped it back across the face for Robinson to touch home.
So the campaign finishes on a high for Ireland with another 3-0 away win, and while qualification hopes for the Qatar tournament had long-since vanished, many positives will be taken into the 2022 calendar and beyond for this emerging and ever-improving international side.
Luxembourg:1 Ralph Schon; 18 Laurent Jans (capt), 2 Maxime Chanot, 8 Christopher Martins Pereira (21 Sébastien Thill 86), 17 Michael Pinto; 5 Vahid Selimovic, 16 Leandro Barreiro, 15 Olivier Thill, 9 Danel Sinani; 11 Yvandro Borges Sanches (14 Maurice Deville 52), 10 Gerson Rodrigues
Republic of Ireland: Gavin Bazunu; Seamus Coleman (capt), Shane Duffy, John Egan; James McClean, Matt Doherty (Troy Parrott 90), Josh Cullen (Conor Hourihane 90), Jeff Hendrick; Chiedozie Ogbene (Alan Browne 82), Callum Robinson (Andrew Omobamidele 89), Adam Idah (Jason Knight 62)
Referee: Tamás Bognár (HUN)