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Saturday 10 December 2016

John Giles: We were lucky week went the way it did

Guram Kashia, Georgia, in action against Jeff Hendrick, Republic of Ireland
Guram Kashia, Georgia, in action against Jeff Hendrick, Republic of Ireland

Lucky, very, very lucky. Ireland sneaked home with the three points they needed and got another big favour from Germany.

Somehow, Martin O'Neill now finds himself in the favourite's position to win a play-off place.

Ireland had one thing going for them in this game. Georgia never believed they could win the game. For all their heroics against Scotland, they don't travel well and we can be thankful for that.

Occasionally, Georgia did show flashes of adventure and Ireland's jittery match personality looked like it might crack more than once.

At times when they attacked with conviction they looked dangerous. They played around the middle of the field in a way we would not and I was worried about them from the first minute.

Our best chances came from our full-backs but when we tried to play through the middle, Georgia snuffed us out.

Both Robbie Keane and Jon Walters couldn't cope with a physical backline and anytime Shay Given hit the ball long, defenders were there to mop up.

I always felt that set-pieces would supply the route to goal eventually but we didn't get many in the first-half and it meant that Séamus Coleman's piledriver was the first time the Georgian goalkeeper was really tested and that shot came just before half-time.

The winner when it came was a great piece of attacking running from Jeff Hendrick (right) and a good finish by Jon Walters.

Was it deserved? Maybe not but I certainly won't argue. O'Neill is doing this the hard way but at least we're still alive

Long made a difference coming on. Georgia tired but we picked it up and Long gave us strength and running power up front. We deserved to win it and the weekend couldn't have gone better.

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