Finland claimed their first victory of their 2020/21 UEFA Nations campaign with an impressive 1-0 win in Dublin.
The visitors marginally had the better of a poor first half. Teemu Pukki was clean through on goal after just nine minutes but was denied by an excellent save from Darren Randolph. The most the Irish could muster in response was a speculative, long range effort from Harry Arter.
Finland took the lead just after the hour with a remarkable contribution from substitute Fredrik Jensen. He started a move that led to Robert Taylor sliding the ball across the six-yard box for him to tap the ball home, all within 18 seconds of coming on. Both sides then missed several chances in a frenetic closing period.
The Republic of Ireland will now head to Bratislava in October to face Slovakia in the semi-finals of the Euro 2021 play-offs, and will meet Finland again in the return Nations League fixture in Helsinki later that month.
Can Stephen Kenny lead Ireland to Euro 2021? The Republic of Ireland haven’t won in their first two matches under their new manager and will need to claim a victory in the next one to have a shot at making the European Championship next summer. The Irish travel to Slovakia next month for their semi-final and will need to provide more of a goal threat than they have shown in the last two games to progress. Kenny is noticeably trying to make his team play more patiently and expansively; can they quickly find the cutting edge to match their developing approach work?
MAN OF THE MATCH – Glen Kamara (Finland)
The Rangers midfielder was comfortably the best player on the pitch in Dublin. Kamara was an island of composure in a frenetic and workmanlike midfield area, calmly breaking up the Irish attacks and setting Finland on the move with some precise and inventive passing.
Republic of Ireland (4-3-3): Randolph 7; Doherty 6, Duffy 6, Egan 6, Stevens 5; Molumby 6, Arter 5, Brady 5; O’Dowda 6, Idah 6, Connolly 7
SUBS: Robinson 6, McGoldrick 6, McClean 6
Finland (3-5-2): Hradecky 7; O’Shaughnessy 6, Ojala 6, Vaisanen 6; Hamalainen 6, Taylor 7, Sparv 6, Kamara 8, Alho 6; Pukki 7, Pohjanpalo 5
SUBS: Jensen 7, Uronen 6, Karjalainen 6
9’ BIG CHANCE! Ireland's defensive line is all over the place and a simple through pass leaves Pukki one on one with Randolph. Pukki tries to slide it into the far corner but Randolph throws out a leg to divert the ball away.
64’ GOAL! Republic of Ireland 0 Finland 1 (Jensen 64) What an impact! Jensen wins the ball from a throw-in and it breaks to Pukki. He splits the Irish defence with a lovely pass to Taylor, who in turn squares the ball across the six-yard box. Jensen had continued running and slides in at the back post to put Finland ahead!
67’ CHANCE! Robinson swings in a beautiful ball from the right, but McGoldrick misses the ball completely with his head and then Connolly air shots a volley behind him from six yards. What a chance.
70’ GOOD SAVE! A stunning pass from the outside of Doherty's foot puts Robinson through on the right of the Finnish area. He blasts an angled drive at Hradecky, who parries the ball away to safety.
81’ CLOSE! More good, intricate play from Finland here. Jensen finds Kamara near the edge of the area, and a lovely little flick opens up a shooting chance for Pukki, who drags his shot inches wide with Randolph beaten.
85’ EXCELLENT SAVE! Pukki rides a couple of challenges and scoops a pass to Ahlo on the right of the Irish area. Ahlo cuts back onto his left foot and Randolph tips his looping drive onto the roof of the net at full stretch.
88’ WHAT A MISS! Brady plants his corner straight onto the head of Duffy at the back post. From six yards out he puts it over the bar, that was a huge chance.
- The Republic of Ireland are one of only six teams who have yet to win a match in the fledgling history of the UEFA Nations League.
- This was the first time that Finland have beaten the Republic of Ireland in international football.