Belfast Telegraph

Republic get job done but lack of quality a big worry

Rep of Ireland 2 Gibraltar 0

Big impact: Robbie Brady celebrates his late effort
Big impact: Robbie Brady celebrates his late effort
David McGoldrick after forcing an own goal

By Daniel McDonnell

Mick McCarthy almost got one thing right in his pre-match press conference. If he had to settle for a scrappy 1-0 win at home to Gibraltar with a goal going in "off someone's backside" he would take that.

The Republic of Ireland boss nearly got that last night, only for an injury-time header from Robbie Brady to make the scoreline a bit more respectable.

But for long spells this was shallow, unconvincing stuff. Gibraltar frustrated the Irish, as we knew they would do. When a so-called bigger nation plays against the likes of Gibraltar the challenge is to deal with that, as those players do on a regular basis at club level.

But the home side shirked that challenge last night, the boys in green looking like lost boys for long spells, lacking the midfield nous and skill to put away a side who had conceded seven goals in their last two away games.

McCarthy will feel that any sniping is crass, as his team are on top of Group D in the Euro 2020 qualifiers, five points clear of Denmark and with their next game at home.

Yet McCarthy will need to coax more from his players, especially in midfield, if they are to stay in contention as days like this will not be good enough, and while they will admire the Irish spirit, the Danes and the Swiss will see little to fear.

Denmark also won their game last night, beating Georgia 4-1, but the fact that the Danes have conceded in all three group games to date will be of some small comfort to McCarthy.

There was a flatness about the night, both the Irish crowd and the players lacking verve.

The last time the Republic hosted Gibraltar, they were 3-0 up after just 18 minutes. Here, last night, the home supporters had to wait until the 29th minute for a goal, but with that came not much satisfaction.

The goal was not even scored by an Irish player as David McGoldrick's shot took a deflection off Joseph Chipolina. It was indeed an own goal, as McGoldrick's shot may have gone wide.

Shane Duffy has proved to be the Republic's biggest goal threat and in the early stages it seemed as if he was keen to add to his international tally, a headed effort going just over the bar as early as the first minute while on 10 minutes he took a chance with a shot from distance, but it lacked the accuracy needed to trouble Kyle Godwin in the Gibraltar goal.

Darren Randolph pulled off a vital save when the sides met in Gibraltar back in March, preventing the minnows from taking the lead in a game which the Republic went on to win 1-0, but the Middlesbrough keeper was a spectator last night, Gibraltar getting within sight of his goal just once in the first half when Tjay De Barr was well wide with a shot.

If the away side were lacking an attacking threat, the home team didn't possess a particularly big one, Scott Hogan sending a glancing header wide on 23 minutes, from a cross by Callum Robinson.

The Irish finally got the lead on 29 minutes, though. Robinson's through ball created some space for Seamus Coleman on the right, his cross fell for McGoldrick and his shot was helped in thanks to that deflection.

With 15 minutes still to play, and Gibraltar's resistance broken, that was the Republic's chance to turn the screw, but they lacked the verve needed and Godwin remained untroubled, though Robinson went close with a backheel just before the end of the first half.

It was one of those nights when everything seemed off.

The second half was more of the same, possession held for long spells by the Republic but little end product. Hogan went close with a shot from close range on 61 minutes but his effort was saved by Godwin. This was not a good night for Hogan, who has yet to score, or convince, in his outings in the green shirt and if this was his audition, he fluffed it.

In injury-time, substitute Brady popped up with a header from James McClean's cross to finish on a high. But the Republic need to be bigger, better, faster, stronger if Euro 2020 is not to pass this team by.

Republic: Randolph, Coleman, Duffy, Keogh, Stevens, Robinson (Brady 73), Hendrick, Hourihane, McClean, McGoldrick, Hogan (Maguire 66).

Subs not used: McDermott, Whelan, Doherty, Egan, Talbot, O'Dowda, Cullen, Curtis, Cunningham.

Gibraltar: Goldwin, Sergeant, Chipolina, Chipolina, Mascarenhas-Olivero, Casciaro (Bardon 10), Hernandez (Jolley 77), Walker, Annesley, Pons (Britto 64), De Barr.

Subs not used: Garcia, Styche, Barnett, Mouelhi, Hernandez, Coombes, Priestley, Coleing.

Man of match: Coleman

Referee: Radu Marian Petrescu (Rom)

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