herald

Sunday 24 September 2017

O'Neill: 'We were punished for poor display'

Cyrus Christie takes on Georgia’s Giorgi Navalovski
Cyrus Christie takes on Georgia’s Giorgi Navalovski

Did we gain a point or drop two in the humidity of Tbilisi on Saturday night?

Truly the answer to that question won't known for a month or more yet, or maybe even two months if Ireland are forced into a World Cup play-off in November.

In all the pre-match punditry, no one dared mention what actually happened in this match.

That Ireland would lead within minutes. Then surrender the ball as we started to play 'hoofball' as though the sphere was filled with boiling oil. Georgia, not surprisingly equalised before half-time, a half in which Ireland completed just 62 passes.

And then, having been run out of it for the first 20 minutes of the second period, Ireland forced the issue and saw Shane Long, James McClean and Aiden McGeady squander great chances to win the game.

No wonder Irish manager Martin O'Neill didn't know what to make of it.

But he had no trouble admitting one thing - this was the worst the team have played in the group, in fact the worst display by the Boys in Green since Belgium took us apart in Bordeaux in 45 minutes of mayhem during Euro 2016.

"We scored early on in the game, great, then sat back and allowed Georgia to dominate," he said.

Chances

"And when we did get the ball, we gave it away cheaply.

"The first half was as poor we played in this campaign," continued the Derryman.

"That said we created a number of great chances, and on chances alone we could have won the game but we did not play well enough in the first half and Georgia were better than us."

"It was a tough evening for us but in terms of chances we could have won the game. In terms of play, we have to improve,"admitted O'Neill as he stated the obvious.

"That's what we'll have to do. We'll have to play better, we'll have to give the Serbians less room to play than we did the Georgians, particular in the first half.

"We will have to be at our best to win the Serbia game and we can do that."

And though he might have been disappointed by everything his team had done on the night, he had the good grace to congratulate the home team on a fine performance.

"I wish them well in the rest of the campaign," he said. "They can definitely play. I know that about the Georgian players anyway."

For full-back Cyrus Christie, whose sweetly floated free-kick led to Duffy's early goal, it was a frustrating night.

"We got a point that maybe we shouldn't have," he said.

"But then we missed those chances for the win at the end," and his voice trailed off into what might have been."

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