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The lessons learned from Ireland's victory over Gibraltar

Ireland2 - 0Gibraltar

As expected, Ireland have overcome Gibraltar thanks to an own goal and a late Robert Brady strike. Ger McCarthy runs the rule over the lessons learned.

The scoring issue

A more attacking formation was a welcome but compulsory development prior to kick-off. The Republic of Ireland’s recent struggles in front of goal are nothing new yet failure to score twice in an international since Alan Judge’s 90th minute winner against the USA the previous June represented a worrying trend.

Thankfully, Gibraltar were the perfect opponent to alter that statistic so Preston North End’s Callum Robinson and Aston Villa’s Scott Hogan were positive inclusions despite a mere 13 caps between them.

Both players along with fellow strikers David McGoldrick and Sean Maguire had yet to find the net for their country, heightening the need for at least one of Ireland’s attacking quartet to get off the mark.

Granted, McGoldrick was unlucky when his deflected effort was chalked down as an own goal and another cannoned off an upright but ten off target attempts during the opening 45 minutes was a dreadful return. Robbie Brady’s late diving header was a relief.

Sterner tests against Switzerland (twice), Georgia and Denmark lie ahead and where more than one goal may be required to secure a positive result.

Bottom line, even though they created a plethora of chances, the Republic of Ireland are struggling to look any more threatening than when Martin O’Neill was patrolling the sideline.

Breaking Down

Let’s be honest, breaking down supposedly inferior opposition has never been the Republic of Ireland’s forte. A quick glance at the history books shows a 1996 stalemate in Liechtenstein, 3-2 loss to Macedonia in 1997 and 1-1 draw with Cyprus under Steve Staunton to underline the point.

So opening up a Gibraltar defence that held Georgia scoreless for half an hour in Tbilisi and unfortunate to lose 1-0 to Mick McCarthy’s side in their previous meeting was never going to be straightforward.

Worryingly, it was Ireland’s attacking inadequacies rather than their opponents’ defensive qualities that ensured a wider winning margin was never likely.

In truth, the home side’s passing was not up to the required standard and our creative players were not sharp enough when in possession. Those issues coupled with a misfiring forward division made for an unnecessarily frustrating night at the Aviva Stadium.

Trouble ahead

Mick McCarthy can point to the fact Ireland are top of their qualification group and yet to taste defeat but the Irish manager must also acknowledge the issues facing his squad heading into the second half of the campaign.

A settled defence is a positive but Ireland’s over-reliance on set-pieces for goals will not suffice if qualification for Euro 2020 is to be achieved.

The lack of a midfield playmaker, somebody with the skill and vision to unlock opposing defences, continues to hinder Ireland’s progress. The need to unearth a new striker has never been more apparent following Monday’s victory over Gibraltar.

This Republic of Ireland side cannot be faulted for work rate or endeavour but those traits, while commendable, are no longer enough to progress to European Championships or World Cups. There may be trouble ahead.