Slovakia 0 Republic of Ireland 0 (Slovakia win 4-2 on penalties)
SLOVAKIA are through to the European Championships play-off final as they defeated the Republic of Ireland 4-2 in a penalty shootout at the Tehelné pole stadium in Bratislava on Thursday night.
The two nations couldn’t be separated after 120 minutes of play so penalties were required and Slovakia emerged victorious with Marek Rodak proving to be the hero, saving from Cork’s Alan Browne before Matt Doherty struck the bar.
Ireland were dealt a blow in the lead up to kick-off as Aaron Connolly and Cork’s Adam Idah were both forced to withdraw from the matchday squad as it is believed they had come into close contact with a FAI staff member, who tested positive for Covid-19.
Bishopstown’s John Egan and Bandon’s Conor Hourihane started the game, Mahon’s Caomhín Kelleher and Alan Browne were named on the bench while Ballyphehane’s Kevin Long travelled but was cut when the squad was reduced to 23.
The Boys in Green looked better in possession but they wouldn’t create a meaningful opportunity until the half an hour mark and David McGoldrick could only head James McClean’s cross over the bar from a good position.
McClean would then have his side’s best goal-scoring opportunity of the first half and it came at the end of a neat attacking move.
Matt Doherty’s floated cross picked out Conor Hourihane at the back post. The Aston Villa playmaker pulled the ball back smartly into McClean’s path but the Derryman’s strike from a great position was blocked, although it did look like it was heading wide regardless.
Slovakia twice went close to snatching the lead against the run of play shortly before the half time break but Ondrej Duda saw a powerful effort brilliantly tipped past the far corner by the outstretched Darren Randolph before the striker then sent a bicycle kick wide.
The Republic almost broke the deadlock in fortuitous circumstances moments after the break but Marek Hamsik was relieved to see his header from Hourihane’s dangerous free drop just wide of his own goal.
After a spell of pressure from the home side, Ireland again went close on 70 but substitute Alan Browne couldn’t beat the keeper when released in the box by Enda Stevens before they soon needed Shane Duffy to bail them out of trouble and hack recently introduced Lukas Haraslin’s attempt off the line.
Ireland ought to have grabbed the winner in the closing stages of the match but after being teed up in front of goal by his fellow Corkman Alan Browne, Hourihane’s shot from a few yards out lacked conviction and easily blocked by the defence to send the tie into extra time.
The visitors controlled the additional period of play and their best chance of snatching a winner fell to Browne but his flick from O’Dowda’s pullback crashed against the near post, meaning the game had to be decided on penalties.
And that’s where Slovakia won it, with Browne and Doherty missing the decisive kicks for Ireland.
SLOVAKIA: Marek Rodak; Peter Pekarik, Denis Vavro, Matin Valijent, Robert Mazan; Juraj Kucka, Patrik Hrosovsky, Marek Hamsik; Albert Rusnak, Ondrej Duda, Jaroslav Mihalik.
Subs: Lukas Haraslin for Jaroslav Mihalik (74), Jan Gregus for Juraj Kucka (86), Robert Mak for Albert Rusnak (86), Robert Bozenik for Ondrej Duda (107), Nobert Gyomber for Denis Vavro (112).
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Darren Randolph; Matt Doherty, John Egan, Shane Duffy, Enda Stevens; James McCarthy, Conor Hourihane, Jeff Hendrick; Callum Robinson, David McGoldrick, James McClean.
Subs: Robbie Brady for James McClean (60), Alan Browne for James McCarthy (60), Callum O’Dowda for Callum Robinson (99), Shane Long for David McGoldrick (112), Referee: Clement Turpin (France).