Republic of Ireland 1
THE Republic of Ireland secured another valuable point in the UEFA Nations League as they held Ukraine to a 1-1 draw at the Stadion Miejski im Wladyslawa Krola in Lodz, Poland on Tuesday night.
A sensational solo goal from Nathan Collins had given Ireland the lead in the first half - it also put them top of their group temporarily - but Artem Dovbyk’s finish at the beginning of the second period earned Ukraine a share of the spoils.
Kenny made three changes to his side that started their impressive 3-0 victory against Scotland last Saturday as Shane Duffy, Michael Obafemi, and Cork’s John Egan were forced to withdraw from the squad. They were replaced by Darragh Lenihan, Dara O’Shea, and Scott Hogan.
Elsewhere from a Cork perspective, Caoimhin Kelleher remained in goal and Alan Browne continued at right back wing while Conor Hourihane and Chiedozie Ogbene eventually emerged from the bench.
The Boys in Green were hoping to build on the positivity from that much-needed triumph, which followed disappointing 1-0 losses away to Armenia and home to a severely weakened Ukraine side that had the critics out in force.
Many feared what a full-strength Ukrainian team might do to Ireland but the two sides cancelled each other out in the first quarter, Kelleher was forced to turn away a powerful long-range strike from Ruslan Malinovskyi before he then used his feet to deny a low drive from Vitaliy Mykolenko.
But on either side of those saves, Troy Parrott squandered a glorious chance to give the Republic the lead as he somehow headed Jason Knight’s clever cross to the back stick wide when in plenty of space.
The Irish were rewarded for their positive approach just past the half an hour mark when Nathan Collins gave them the lead with an incredible solo goal that will be talked about for years to come.
The 21-year-old has been dominant when defending his own box recently and he stepped up brilliantly to beat his man to the ball just inside the opposition’s half.
He typified Ireland’s desire to play on the front foot as he charged forward, beating one man, then beating a second, and then cutting inside a third.
And although he was a little fortunate that the ball ricocheted kindly off his left leg and back into his path, there was nothing fortunate about the finish as he expertly slotted the ball past the keeper at his near post with the outside of his right boot.
They threatened to make it 2-0 before the break but Dmytro Riznyk got down to stop Knight’s powerful shot from the edge of the box.
That proved to be decisive as within two minutes of the restart Ukraine equalised when Artem Dovbyk was left free at the back post and he had the simple task of converting Andriy Yarmmolenko’s low cross.
Ireland responded well to that setback as Darragh Lenihan fired a dropping ball just wide on 50 minutes before Parrott saw an effort deflect past the near post on the hour and Hourihane blasted over the top in the 70th minute.
Ukraine were also playing their part in a highly entertaining encounter but they failed to create anything clear-cut as Ireland did enough to earn another positive result.
UKRAINE: Dmytro Riznyk; Oleksandr Karavaev, Illia Zabarnyl, Mykola Matviyenko, Vitaliy Mykolenko; Ruslan Malinovskyi, Serhiy Sydorchuk, Oleksander Zinchenko; Andriy Yarmolenko, Artem Dovbyk, Mykola Shaparenko.
Subs: Mykhalio Mudryk for Malinovskyi (28), Denys Popov for Matviyenko (73), Danylo Sikan for Dovbyk (73), REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Caoimhin Kelleher; Darragh Lenihan, Nathan Collins, Dara O’Shea; Alan Browne, Josh Cullen, Jason Molumby, Jason Knight, James McClean; Scott Hogan, Troy Parrott.
Subs: Callum Robinson for Hogan (57), Jeff Hendrick for Molumby (67), Conor Hourihane for Knight (67), Chiedozie Ogbene for Parrott (81).
Referee: Ali Palabiyik (Turkey).