Georgia were probably unlucky to not win to this game but thanks to some ferocious defending, Ireland escaped with a point in Tbilisi this evening. An early goal from Shane Duffy gave Ireland but that was cancelled out by Kazaishvilli just before half time.
Ireland had an early chance to test the Georgian defence after Navalovski fouled Jonathan Walters just over the halfway line. Cyrus Christie took the resulting free kick from the right hand side, swinging it into the box and onto the head of Shane Duffy who headered it past Makaridje in the Georgian goal after he came out to palm the ball away. It looked as if Ireland would go on to put more pressure on the Georgians and dominate the game but it was just not to be as the home side slowly got into the game and started dominating possession.
Ireland couldn’t seem to get hold of the ball at all as the Georgians launched attack after attack but were frustrated by a resilient Irish defence. They looked closest to getting the next goal but just couldn’t seem to find a way in and were instead left to half chances. Navalovski gave away another free kick on twelve minutes when he fouled Shane Long just outside the penalty area. However, Robbie Brady over kicked it and it went past the goalkeeper.
The Georgians continued to dominate and the Irish couldn’t seem to get the ball at all as the home side continued to launch attack after attack on the Irish defence. This was evident in the possession stats which showed the Georgians had 78% of the ball after just twenty munutes.
When the Irish did get manage to get the ball, they gave it away easily. McClean had an opportunity to double the lead when Walters swung a cross into the box but he could only drive it to the left of the goal. Twenty minutes before half time, Ireland spun together a few passes but McClean crossed the ball into the box with nobody there to meet it. Shane Long had a half attempt minutes later after McClean had done well to keep it in but again, it went nowhere.
Georgia got their reward for all their possession just three minutes later after Anandidze picked up Kazaishvilli who found a way past the Irish defence and squared it past Randolph in goal from the left hand side to deservedly equalise.
Ireland got the ball back just before half time but couldn’t string a series of passes together, instead trying to unsuccessfully hoof it up to Shane Long up front.
With Georgia finding it hard to find a way past the Irish defence, Kvekveskiri tried a long range effort which hit off Shane Duffy and Randolph is able to hang on and clear it. Ireland won a corner on the brink of half time with Duffy once again going close with a header going wide to go into half time all level.
You would wonder what was said in the Irish dressing room at half time as the home side started off the second half the way they ended the first, with intensity and ambition. Ireland managed to string a few passes together early on but as was typical in this game, the ball was once again over hit into nowhere. Shortly after, Ananidze went close for the hosts with amother long range attempt but went to the right of the post.
The introduction of Aidan McGeady for Harry Arter did little to change things but the Georgians did look like they were tiring. Cyrus Christie swung in a cross for Shane Long but he could only head it over. McGeady had an attempt blocked before Robbie Brady tried to score from the rebound, forcing Makaridje into a save.
Just before the end, McClean tried his best to get onto a cross from Long from the left hand side but was blocked once again by the goalkeeper. The home team replied with a chance of their own just before the final whistle was blown as Merebashvili cuts inside Stephen Ward only to drive the ball wide.
As the final whistle was blown on what was a very disappointing game for both sides, questions have to be asked of Ireland’s midfield and their inability to string together a series of passes. Credit has to go the defence though who were able to keep out a strong Georgian attack. However, they will need to improve massively if they are to stand a chance against Serbia on Tuesday.