Republic of Ireland 1-0 Georgia
Seamus Coleman’s second-half goal sealed a narrow 1-0 win for Republic of Ireland over Georgia in their 2018 World Cup Qualifier tonight.
The hosts, who were second best in the first half at the Aviva Stadium, improved after the break and went ahead when Coleman bundled in the only goal of the game.
Georgia had twice hit the woodwork in the opening 45 minutes but faded in the second half, and James McClean almost added further gloss for Republic of Ireland when he hit the crossbar in stoppage time.
Robbie Brady, who was carried off on a stretcher after a nasty clash of heads with Solomon Kverkveliya, and Shane Long, who limped off late on with a Achilles problem, will be doubts to face Moldova on Sunday, while a booking for Jeff Hendrick with seven minutes to play rules the Burnley man out.
The victory moves Martin O’Neill’s side onto four points, level with Wales, Serbia and Austria, in an extremely tight Group D. Georgia, meanwhile, prop up the group on zero points alongside Moldova.
James McCarthy returned in midfield as one of three changes from Republic of Ireland’s opening 2-2 draw with Serbia, but they started the game on the back foot.
Georgia hit the woodwork twice in the space of 10 seconds shortly before the break when Levan Mchedlidze and then Guram Kashia were each unfortunate to see headers come back off the crossbar and post.
Ireland had been warned of the visitors’ threat after 17 minutes when Valeri Qazaishvili smashed narrowly wide, and the Georgian attacker went close again when he raced onto Jano Ananidze’s through ball and saw his effort saved by Darren Randolph.
Ireland were restricted to just two attempts on goal in a lethargic first-half display, with Jon Walters hooking over their best opportunity.
They picked up the tempo and 11 minutes into the second half edged in front in scrappy fashion. Coleman surged past Giorgi Navalovski down the right, and when Kverkveliya failed to clear his low centre, the Ireland captain tapped home.
Long, now without a goal in 18 matches for club and country, then headed wide before McClean had a header correctly ruled out for offside.
Georgia continued to probe but lost their attacking edge as the game wore on, and Brady almost added Ireland’s second when he nodded narrowly wide.
The Norwich City winger was badly hurt in the clash with Kverkveliya, though, and was carried off on a stretcher wearing a neck brace. The FAI have since announced that Brady was conscious in the dressing room receiving medical attention.
There was more bad news to come for O’Neill as Hendrick picked up a booking in the closing stages, ruling him out of the Moldova trip, and Long limped off with an Achilles problem, putting his availability in doubt.
The Boys in Green were far from their best tonight and will certainly hope to improve when they travel to Moldova on Sunday.
Ireland: Darren Randolph; Seamus Coleman (capt), Ciaran Clark, Shane Duffy, Stephen Ward; James McCarthy, Jeff Hendrick, James McClean, Robbie Brady (Glenn Whelan 81), Jonathan Walters; Shane Long (John O’Shea 90).
Georgia:Giorgi Loria; Otar Kakabadze, Guram Kashia (C), Solomon Kverkvelia, Murtaz Daushvili (Nika Katcharava),Jank Ananidze (Davit Skhirtladze 73), Valeri Kazaishvili, Tornike Okriashvili, Valerian Gvilia, Giorgi Navalovski (A.Kobakhidze), Levan Mchedlidze.
Referee:Tony Chapron (Fra).