By Damian Spellman, PA
Stephen Kenny insists he is not worried about his job after seeing his Republic of Ireland team slip to an embarrassing home World Cup qualifying defeat by Luxembourg.
Gerson Rodrigues’ 85th-minute strike secured an unlikely 1-0 victory at the Aviva Stadium for the team ranked 98th in the world and left both Ireland’s qualification hopes in tatters and new manager Kenny without a single win in his 10 games to date.
But asked afterwards if he feared for his position in the wake of a dark evening in Dublin, he replied: “No, I don’t, no. I don’t at all.”
Ireland went into the game desperate to bounce back from Wednesday’s opening Group A defeat in Serbia, where they had gone toe-to-toe with Dragan Stojkovic’s men, but in the event turned in a lacklustre display which skipper Seamus Coleman described as “embarrassing”.
The Everton defender told Sky Sports: “It’s a horrible night, an embarrassing night as international footballers. We didn’t deserve anything from the game, so I think that says it all, really.”
Kenny admitted in his television interviews that the defeat was “not acceptable” and bemoaned his team’s inability to perform to the levels they had in their Euro 2020 play-off semi-final in Slovakia and against Serbia at his post-match press conference.
He said: “The European play-off and the Serbia performance were exceptional performances, so we needed to back that up tonight and, had we done that, it would have put us in a reasonable place.
“But we didn’t and it’s just a disappointing result to say the least. To lose tonight, we certainly wanted to win, we were desperate to win. We needed to get that first goal and we didn’t do that and we got punished by a strike from outside the box.”
Ireland enjoyed marginally the better of the game and might have taken a first-half lead through James Collins.
However, they needed saves either side of half-time by 19-year-old goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu to deny Rodrigues and Vincent Thill, and the teenager was eventually beaten at the death by Rodrigues’ dipping strike from distance, with his own team having run out of ideas.
Kenny said: “We’re very disappointed to lose the game, we can’t get away from that. There’s no point in hiding from that, that’s obvious.
“Listen, the players’ morale was good going into the game, their attitude was good, they were determined to get a result.
“There wasn’t a complacency – we knew that Luxembourg had pushed Ukraine tight last year 1-0 and Ukraine had won that group with Portugal and Serbia. We knew they had done well and had taken points in the Nations League, so we weren’t complacent in any way.
“But it ended up being a pretty even match, which is disappointing. Obviously we had more of the play. We thought James Collins had scored – it would have been an outstanding team goal – in the first half, but we didn’t create enough to be honest, in that period.
“We’re very disappointed to say the least.”