The Republic of Ireland had their hopes of Nations League promotion dashed by a Ryan Christie spot-kick nine minutes from time
By: James Roulston Mooney
Bournemouth’s Ryan Christie was the star on the night with a goal and an assist as Scotland rallied in the second half to overturn a deficit and go top of the group in the penultimate Nations League match-up for the Republic of Ireland.
The boys in green, or rather orange, were the first to break the deadlock with centre-back and captain on the night John Egan firing home from inside the box.
An overcooked corner from left-back James McClean was recovered by midfielder Jayson Molumby whose header was controlled by one of Egan’s defensive partners on the night, Nathan Collins. Egan made no mistake with the chance that was presented to him.
The opening goal followed an Irish wave that Scotland struggled to control despite having the lion’s share of the possession in the opening quarter.
Egan’s other defensive partner, Dara O’Shea, showcased his ball-playing qualities when he found Preston’s Troy Parrott, who slalomed into the box and put the ball past veteran goalkeeper Craig Gordon.
Parrott’s finish was ruled out for offside but it foreshadowed what was to come as Stephen Kenny’s men used the 20-year-old and his presence on the left-hand side of the pitch to cut open the Scottish defence time and time again in the first half.
It was a Parrott chance, on the right side, that resulted in the corner which opened the scoring.
Ireland looked the better side in the first half, as they were in the reverse fixture in Dublin when they scored twice inside the opening 30 minutes.
Kenny’s tactical setup frustrated the Scottish who repeatedly failed to break down the Irish back five and were surprised by several counter-attacks.
Christie proved to be Scotland’s brightest spark in the first half and linked up well with Brentford’s Aaron Hickey down the left wing.
The work of the duo paid off at the start of the second half when Christie’s impressive cross found the head of central defender Jack Hendry, who was left open by Ireland’s goalscorer.
Ireland kept one striker up the pitch at all times to have a body ready for a counter-attack but the second half proved to be frustrating for the side and underwhelming compared to the impressive first 45 minutes they had put in.
Their biggest chance in the second half came from the use of such a tactic but Parrott could not finish off a 1v1 situation, with Gordon instead stopping his shot easily.
Former Limerick FC player Chiedoze Ogbene replaced Michael Obafemi on the hour mark and was almost instantly rewarded with a fortunate goal but Ireland rarely troubled in the final quarter after a small period of pressure was fought off.
Scotland found it too easy to progress the ball beyond the midfield all game and the Irish defence started to crack as the game went on.
Ireland tried to find their rhythm but the Scottish pressure was unrelenting and a corner proved to be the death blow for Ireland, 60 minutes after it had breathed life into them.
Substitute Alan Browne was found to have handled the ball in the box when the corner was swung in and up stepped Ryan Christie to calmly bring an end to proceedings.
Ireland had a few late chances to save the day but it was not to be. The loss now leaves them needing a result against Armenia on Tuesday night to survive relegation and stay in League B.
The match may be looked back on as a strong analogy for Ireland’s whole campaign. The plan is very clear and the potential is most certainly there, but the execution has yet to become consistent.
The Republic of Ireland host Armenia at 7:45 pm on Tuesday, September 27.
Scotland (4-2-3-1): Gordon; Hickey (Ralston 59′), Hendry, McKenna, Tierney (Taylor 42′); McTominay, McGregor; Armstrong (Fraser 59′), McGinn, Christie (McLean 85′); Dykes (Adams 85′).
Unused Subs: Gilmour, Porteous, McCrorie, Jack, Kelly, Gallagher, Doig.
Republic of Ireland (3-5-2): Bazunu; O’Shea, Collins, Egan; Doherty (Coleman, 75′); Cullen, Molumby (Browne, 75′), Knight; McClean (Brady, 80′); Parrott (Robinson, 75′), Michael Obafemi (Ogbene, 60′).
Unused Subs: Hourihane, Hendrick, Travers, Hogan, O’Dowda, O’Leary.