EURO 2020 Qualification Group D
Republic of Ireland 1-1 Switzerland
David McGoldrick scored his first ever international goal as Ireland fought back to snatch a 1-1 draw with Switzerland at the Aviva Stadium.
The visitors came for all three points but only left with one in this vital Euro 2020 qualifier, despite taking the lead in the 74th minute with a fine Fabian Schar strike.
But the fighting Irish came flying back into this contest and scored what could prove a most vital equaliser in their quest to qualify for next summer’s showpiece.
It was a sloppy start from the Swiss as a wayward back-pass handed Ireland a corner in the opening minute.
But alas, for Ireland that was about all they were given in the opening exchanges by a Switzerland side pushing forward with a seven-man attacking unit, led by the classy Arsenal midfielder, Granit Xhaka.
The Swiss certainly came to attack and took just seven minutes to create a great chance when wide man Kevin Mbabu’s cross just cleared Shane Duffy, but somehow the centre-half recovered to take it off Breel Embolo’s foot.
Out of the blue Ireland burst forward after good work from Glenn Whelan and Jeff Hendrick set McClean through on goal.
The Derry native looked set to blast it past the advancing keeper but for some fine Mbabu defending, blocking the path to goal.
McClean made it back to his feet to finally get the shot away but it was tame amidst calls for a penalty, which failed to convince the Spanish referee.
As the half wore on, Ireland looked to get a bit of shape as the back four pushed out.
But still the Swiss came forward and three chances within a minute were thwarted first by Duffy, then Richard Keogh and finally a Darren Randolph punched clearance; Seferovic with the best of the three efforts.
Whether part of the plan or not, Ireland were forced to play counter-attacking football and again enjoyed some success running from their own half. This time however, Callum Robinson’s cross was intercepted as McGoldrick attempted to get in at the back post.
Mistakes were starting to creep into the Irish performance mid-way through the half as Keogh’s back-pass barely reached Randolph.
Whelan then fouled Fabian Schar bursting forward and was lucky not to see yellow, and from the resulting free Xhaka’s long-range effort was deflected just past the post.
Randolph then spilt the corner and Schar was on hand to turn it goalwards but it flew over the bar.
Zakaria was next to test the keeper as he hit one from 25 yards; straight at Randolph as it happens, and then Ireland again managed a foray forward as Coleman finally burst into the final third, linking up well with Hendrick who had being doing well in possession.
This time the ball found McGoldrick in space and while the Sheffield United striker had time to turn, his shot was tame.
Five minutes from half-time, Ireland ended up in a promising position as Robinson inadvertently struck in the face; the whistle-happy referee receiving sarcastic cheers from the Irish crowd.
Hourihane’s delivery raced right across the corridor of uncertainly, but two out-stretched Irish legs could not get a vital touch.
The best chance of the half came from another Irish counter-attack, as McGoldrick raced down the right flank, and with club team-mate Robinson steaming into the box, all that was needed was the right ball.
And while it was the correct option, McGoldrick’s well-hit cross whistled across the box and Robinson was still about two yards shy of connecting as it remained scoreless at the break.
Irish attacking intent was evident straight from the restart as Enda Stevens managed to break down the flank. His fine cross into the box went deep and Hourihane was almost on hand to test the keeper.
It would not take the Swiss long to move into the Irish half and again Newcastle defender Schar ventured forward; his long-range effort sailed wide under good pressure from Keogh.
Switzerland then took a leaf out of Ireland’s playbook in the 52nd minute with a counterattack that sent Embolo racing clear.
Whelan was done for pace and perhaps thought about taking him out.
The midfielder decided against it and only for the assured defending of Stevens, and perhaps the generosity of the striker, passing it sideways, Randolph would certainly have been tested.
Then in the 62nd minute, Switzerland should definitely have made Randolph work; the keeper had been surprisingly untroubled throughout, considering the amount of play in and around his goal.
This time Embolo was rolled in perfectly by Seferovic but his feet went from under him as he attempted to blast it home.
Moments later, substitute Alan Judge – only on the pitch, replacing Robinson – saved a certain goal as Embolo lifted a clever ball over everyone with Ricardo Rodriguez arriving unmarked at the back post.
Judge spotted the danger and nipped inside the forward to head the ball wide for a corner kick.
A carbon copy attempt on goal just moments later as Remo Freuler stooped to conquer at the back post but this time captain Coleman played the Judge role and diverted it away.
The goal appeared to be coming, and it finally arrived in the 74th minute with a brilliant moment of world class one touch football.
A four-man move, started and finished by Schar, as a Swiss quartet, including Embolo, Denis Zakaria and Xhaka played right through the middle of the Irish defence, and the Newcastle defender showed real class and composure to slot the ball low, out of reach of Randolph and into the far corner.
The hosts went straight on the attack and put real pressure on the Swiss goal as Stevens lifted a clever ball to the back post.
McGoldrick launched himself at the ball but there were two men in white to come over and inevitably gave away a free out.
Scott Hogan came on for Conor Hourihane as Ireland went for broke, and just two minutes later, with the crossbar still rattling from a Whelan thunderbolt, McGoldrick arrived at the back post to head home.
James McClean who had been having a rather quite night came to life in the final minutes of the game. An Irish corner provided the visitors with a perfect platform from which to counter attack. However the Derryman chased the rapid Embolo back into the Irish half before outmuscling the Schalke winger off the ball to win a throw in.
Ireland applied huge pressure on the goal as the ball dropped from the Whelan effort and the ball was diverted out to Ireland’s left flank. McClean again was influential moving up the wing before sending the ball towards the box. A helpful deflection helped it towards the head of the Sheffield United forward who grabbed a priceless goal.
McGoldrick went off in the final stages as Ireland looked to hold on for a point, but then actually had a chance to win it in injury time as Judge launched a ball at Duffy arriving at the back post.
The keeper took one for the team and collapsed under Duffy’s physical challenge, and that would be that as Ireland remain top of the group with three matches to play.
Ireland: Darren Randolph; Seamus Coleman, Richard Keogh, Shane Duffy, Enda Stevens; Glenn Whelan, Conor Hourihane (Scott Hogan 82), Jeff Hendrick; James McClean, Callum Robinson (Alan Judge 58), David McGoldrick (Alan Browne 90)
Switzerland: Yann Sommer; Nico Elvedi, Manuel Akanji, Fabian Schar; Ricardo Rodríguez; Denis Zakaria, Granit Xhaka (capt), Remo Freuler (Admir Mehmedi 90), Kevin Mbabu (Edimilson Fernandes 90); Breel Embolo (Albian Ajeti 86), Haris Seferovic
Referee: Carlos Del Carro Grande (ESP)
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin