Ireland draw against Serbia with own-goal | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Ireland draw against Serbia with own-goal

12 September, 2021
Ireland players celebrate
Ireland players celebrate

A late own goal gave the Republic of Ireland their best result under Stephen Kenny as they drew with Serbia in a World Cup qualifier in Dublin.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s clever 20th-minute header from a Dusan Tadic corner put the Serbs ahead.

The Republic were then indebted to teenager Gavin Bazunu, who made 10 saves to keep the visitors at bay.

They snatched a point when Milinkovic-Savic’s 86th-minute clearance went in off Nikola Milenkovic.

The hosts then pressed for a late winner - in front of a raucous crowd - but Serbia almost got it when Nemanja Gudelj’s long-range free-kick hit the bar. The Republic’s run of competitive games without a victory under Kenny extended to 12 - but this felt like a success with the late drama and spirited comeback.

Serbia now trail Portugal by two points at the top of Group A in the battle for a World Cup spot, while Kenny’s side are second bottom with just two points.

It is more than two years and 16 matches since the Republic won a competitive game, following a June 2019 victory over Gibraltar.

There are those who think Kenny needs time as he tries to blood youngsters and get the team playing a passing game. Bazunu, the Manchester City keeper on loan at Portsmouth, and Norwich centre-back Andrew Omobamidele - who were both excellent - are 19, and Adam Idah, who worked hard but was isolated up front, is 20.

But the other argument is they have only beaten Andorra - in a friendly - in 16 games over 18 months.

For all the under-pressure Kenny may try to change the Republic’s style, one thing will never change - their love of late goals from crosses.

Each of their last five home goals in competitive matches have come in the 85th minute or later - including Shane Duffy’s leveller last time out against Azerbaijan.

They were fortunate Milinkovic-Savic kicked the ball against his own team-mate for the equaliser, but the goal had been coming as the Republic - backed by their vociferous fans - put Serbia under a lot of late pressure.