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O'Neill relieved as Georgia's lack of ruthless touch sees his side hit target

by Damian Spellman

Published 07/10/2016

Big test: Martin O’Neill knew his side wouldn’t have it easy against Georgia
Big test: Martin O’Neill knew his side wouldn’t have it easy against Georgia

Republic of Ireland boss Martin O'Neill says he wasn't surprised that Georgia made his side sweat last night. Seamus Coleman's first goal for the Republic secured three precious World Cup qualifying points on a night when Robbie Brady was carried from the field on a stretcher with a head injury.

Coleman benefited from two fortunate deflections on his way to tapping in from point-blank range 11 minutes after the break to mark his 40th cap in style, although there was concern for midfielder Brady when he was carried from the field while receiving oxygen after a nasty clash of heads with defender Solomon Kverkvelia.

The Norwich City man later left the stadium in an ambulance.

Georgia, who have now lost all eight of their meetings with the Republic, left Dublin understandably aggrieved having enjoyed the better of large parts of the game and hitting both the bar and the post through Levan Mchedlidze and Guram Kashia before half-time.

"I expected Georgia to run us close," admitted former Northern Ireland skipper O'Neill.

"If they had a natural goalscorer in their team they could cause teams lots of problems.

"It was very difficult indeed, they had by miles the better of the first half and then we came into it.

"Seamus Coleman came up with a wonder run and a goal.

"The players have a great desire to do well. We needed a spark at half-time and they got themselves going. We can play much better than that."

The Republic, Wales, Austria and Serbia all have four points from two matches.

Captain Coleman revealed O'Neill gave his team a half-time "rollicking" that inspired them to victory.

Coleman said: "In the first half we weren't good enough and we were lucky to go in 0-0 at half-time.

"It's all about three points but we know the performance wasn't good enough, but we're happy to come out of it with three points.

"The manager just gave us a rollicking and said 'nowhere near good enough'.

"We came out second half, played slightly better, scored the goal, defended better. I thought the man of the match was our keeper (Darren Randolph). Shane Duffy was immense. He was unbelievable at the back, won everything in the air."

On scoring his first international goal, Coleman added: "It's a special feeling to score for your country. It's an amazing feeling, growing up as a kid you want to play for the team."

O'Neill was reluctant to admit that he had given his players a strong telling off.

On Coleman's version of events, he said: "When it's not going so well you need to re-energise. You need something to get a spark again in the second half. If that's what he's talking about, that's fine. The players got themselves going in the second half. Obviously I'm delighted with the three points."

Austria and Wales drew 2-2 in Vienna and Serbia won 3-0 away to Moldova in yesterday's other two Group D encounters.

Belfast Telegraph

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