2022 World Cup Qualifier
Republic of Ireland 0-1 Luxembourg
Stephen Kenny’s disastrous run of results continued as Ireland were shocked at home, losing 1-0 to Luxembourg in tonight’s World Cup qualifier at the Aviva Stadium.
Now ten games into the new manager’s tenure without a win, a late Gerson Rodrigues effort proved the difference as the lower ranked side secured all three points at Lansdowne Road.
Two defeats on the bounce in the World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign thus far, and Ireland can all-but call time on their chances of reaching the Qatar showpiece after losing this must-win encounter.
The new manager continued with his policy of giving youth a chance by naming former Shamrock Rovers goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu in goal for the second group game of the campaign, while Jason Knight and James Collins also came into the side that were beaten 3-2 in Serbia midweek.
A lively Luxembourg outfit started the game at a frenetic pace and caused Ireland to lose their composure on occasion with both Josh Cullen and Jason Knight getting caught in possession early on.
Midfielder Vincent Thill managed to get two shots away in those opening exchanges; the first testing the young keeper, but Manchester City keeper Bazunu – currently on loan at Rochdale – made no mistake taking the ball into his body, while the other flew wide.
The Ireland passing game eventually got moving yet it was the tenth minute before Ireland really created anything of note going forward, with Knight pushing the team on from midfield.
It was the Derby County captain who popped up on the right flank to deliver a teasing ball into the box. Alan Browne attacked but could not make clean contact as the defender did enough to prevent the free header from eight yards out.
Ireland nearly broke the deadlock in the 18th minute from a great move which started back with Bazunu as he and Clark changed passes before Bazunu switched it long to Doherty.
The Spurs man picked a great pass to Stevens who had ventured into the middle of the park and moments later Robinson was attacking at pace on the left side of the box.
The West Brom man slapped a fine ball across the six-yard box and Collins must have thought he had scored as he slid in at the near post. However, Anthony Moris spread himself well and managed to make a point-blank save.
Ireland gradually started to enjoy the lion’s share of possession, knocking the ball around at pace, always looking to change the angle of attack, and happy to go long or across as the situation arose.
A 39th-minute corner was the closest the visitors came to threatening, and to their credit, it was imaginative, going short, then almost finding Leandro Barreiro unmarked at the back post, but the angled ball was just too high to head.
Then in the 42nd minute, Luxembourg almost grabbed an unlikely lead as Gerson Rodrigues attempted an audacious effort from well outside the box, hooking the ball goalwards at pace, looking to catch Bazunu out, with the keeper off his line.
Backpeddling, the teenage keeper got his feet right and managed to claw the ball back from dropping over his head into the net, before gathering at the second attempt – lightning almost striking twice in a situation so similar to Serbia’s second midweek.
Two chances inside the first two minutes of the second half as new man out, Robbie Brady, was immediately involved, racing through onto a fine clipped ball by Stevens.
Brady had replaced Doherty at the break – due to a knock suffered in the first half – and for a moment it looked like a shot was on as he came onto the ball. The angle was narrowing, however, as Brady opted to square, but the cross was intercepted.
Moments later Robinson found space on the edge of the box, but he could not keep his shot down and it flew over the bar.
Luxembourg were back probing soon after and earned a free in a decent position as Ciaran Clark led with his arm as he attacked the ball – not for the first time in the game, as it happens.
Olivier Thill struck from distance and tried to catch Bazunu out with a sizeable gap to aim for. The Irish keeper spotted it early and was able to wave it away as it curled past the post.
In the 55th minute, Browne should have at least hit the target as he arrived late onto a great set-piece delivery from the left flank. The Belgrade goalscorer, who had taken up Doherty’s wing-back position, again looked to send his header back across the goal and into the far corner, but this time it bounced the wrong side of the post.
Bazunu was again called into action in the 62nd minute as Vincent Thill carried the ball a distance before making his way into the box. His initial effort was well blocked by Dara O’Shea but the bounce fell back into his path.
A close-range effort was slammed at the Irish keeper, who spread his body well at the near post to avert the danger, but it was a wake-up call to the home side that the perceived weaker side were most definitely a threat.
James McClean had been introduced by this stage as Ireland went back to a flat back four as Clark departed, and the Derry man’s energy helped create a 67th-minute chance for Robinson, with Brady also involved in the build-up. The Ireland attacker had a good look at goal from inside the box but again drilled it over.
The game really began to open up and Luxembourg were matching Ireland for efforts at goal as a Danel Sinani snap-shot flew wide with just over twenty remaining.
Then a spectacular Collins’ overhead effort hit the side netting in the 70th minute following a good move and controlled delivery in from the right by Brady.
With the game approaching the final stages, the manager again looked to experience by sending Shane Long into the action as his side tried desperately to end the stalemate.
Another Brady ball into the box just needed a touch as Long launched himself at the curling cross, but he could not connect.
Then the deadlock was broken, as Luxembourg took the lead.
Rodrigues latched onto a dropping ball that the Irish defence failed to clear, and with the green jerseys slow to react, there was time to shoot and the ball was perfectly dispatched beyond the keeper’s reach, low into the bottom left corner.
Ireland huffed and puffed for the final few minutes but in truth never looked like gaining anything from the game as the visitors celebrated their historic win on the final whistle.
Ireland: Gavin Bazunu; Seamus Coleman (capt.), Dara O’Shea, Ciaran Clark (James McClean 61); Matt Doherty (Robbie Brady HT), Enda Stevens, Josh Cullen (Jayson Molumby 88), Jason Knight, Alan Browne; Callum Robinson (Shane Long 73), James Collins (Troy Parrott 88).
Luxembourg: 1 Anthony Moris; 22 Marvin Martins, 2 Maxime Chanot, 3 Enes Mahmutovic, 18 Laurent Jans (capt.); 11 Vincent Thill (Maurice Deville 79), 8 Christopher Martins, 15 Olivier Thill, 16 Leandro Barreiro, 10 Gerson Rodrigues; 9 Danel Sinani (Lars Gerson 90).
Referee: Fran Jovic (CRO)