Republic of Ireland 0 Ukraine 1
AFTER losing to Armenia at the weekend, Ireland fell to another defeat at the Aviva Stadium on Wednesday evening.
The Boys in Green, who were hoping for their first-ever win in the UEFA Nations League, were beaten by an in-swinging free-kick from Viktor Tsygankov.
Stephen Kenny’s side started well and they should have scored inside two minutes when Jason Knight danced into the Ukrainian box and shot at the bottom right corner of the goal. Ukrainian captain Andriy Lunin read his movement perfectly and caught the ball with ease.
The next time the Derby County player got into that position, he hit the ball with venom and a stretching save was needed by the Ukrainian goalkeeper.
When Ireland didn’t have the ball, the team pressed and pushed into the opposition half. This led to Chiedozie Ogbene picking off a stray pass in the middle of the pitch. The winger played a quick ball into Josh Cullen, who was swarmed by the Ukrainian back four as he went to take a touch.
The Irish forward line was complemented by an energetic back three of John Egan, Shane Duffy, and Nathan Collins. The trio halted every run by the Artem Dovbyk, an experienced striker with three international goals to his name.
All of the good work was nearly undone when a cross from Dovbyk found Mykola Shaparenko and the midfielder drove the ball in from 25 meters. A review was called for and VAR found that Dovbyk’s foot was offside in the build-up. The goal was ruled out and Ireland breathed a massive sigh of relief.
This feeling of elation at the end of the first half increased in the final seconds as Collins halted a free-running Dovbyk. The loose ball was chaotically hit towards goal and Caoimhín Kelleher stood firm and collected.
The second half opened in the worst possible way for Ireland; an in-swinging free-kick from Tsygankov beat everyone inside the area and floated in.
As the team readjusted, Duffy and Collins combined to deny Dovbyk. The pair stayed together to block the striker’s attempt and in doing so, they settled the dazed Irish team.
The newfound focus was on show after Egan was forced off through injury. His replacement, Dara O’Shea, slotted straight in with no disruption to the team’s game plan.
Ireland nearly equalised through Jeff Hendrick as ran onto the edge of the box and had a shot blocked by Valeriy Bondar.
Then an Alan Browne free-kicked was headed out to Cullen and he crossed into an unmarked Ogbene. The winger broke the ball down to Duffy and the defender miscontrolled before the offside flag was raised.
Cullen’s next free-kick was headed clear and Michael Obafemi collected the loose ball. He ran into space before crossing in to Duffy and the Derry native hit the crossbar with a powerful close-range header.
Caoimhín Kelleher; Cyrus Christie (Alan Browne 69), Enda Stevens (James McClean 68), Shane Duffy, John Egan (Dara O’Shea 61), Josh Cullen, Callum Robinson (Michael Obafemi 68), Nathan Collins, Jeff Hendrick, Jason Knight, Chiedozie Ogbene (CJ Hamilton 78).
Andriy Lunin; Oleksandr Syrota, Denys Popov, Serhiy Sydorchuk (Danylo Ihnatenko 88), Mykola Shaparenko, Artem Dovbyk (Danylo Sikan 79), Mykhailo Mudryk (Oleksandr Pikhalonok 68), Vitaliy Mykolenko, Valeriy Bondar, Taras Kacharaba (Oleksandr Karavaev 68), Oleksandr Zubkov (Viktor Tsygankov 45).