Shane Duffy salvaged a point with a late header in a 1-1 draw against Azerbaijan that still leaves Republic of Ireland’s hopes of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup on the brink.
Stephen Kenny’s side looked set to suffer a fourth straight defeat to leave them at the foot of Group A on zero points only for Duffy to equalise. However, pressure on the Ireland manager is still likely to intensify after this.
The home side started brightly and had chances to score through Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah, but they allowed Azerbaijan into the game as the first half progressed.
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This resulted in Azerbaijan taking the lead on the stroke of half time, with Emin Mahmudov making the most of some slack Irish defending on the edge of the box to unleash a stunning strike into the back of the net.
Daryl Horgan, Conor Hourihane and Callum Robinson were introduced off the bench as Ireland cranked up the pressure in search of an equaliser, but the hosts struggled to create opportunities against the 112th-ranked team in the world.
But with just three minutes left on the cross Duffy stayed up after a corner kick to power home a header as Ireland avoided a damaging defeat.

TALKING POINT - Ireland’s lack of a true goalscorer still holding them back

The home side had plenty of possession and territory in this match, but generally failed to translate that pressure into genuine goalscoring opportunities. What they did create was spurned. When the equaliser came late on, it came through a central defender still up after a set piece. The Republic of Ireland’s struggle to find the natural successor for Robbie Keane is still holding them back.

MAN OF THE MATCH - Emin Mahmudov (Azerbaijan)

Until Duffy’s late intervention, it appeared that Mahmudov’s stunning strike right at the end of the first half would be the match winner. The attacking midfielder was Azerbaijan’s danger man throughout and demonstrated the technical ability he possesses with a finish that was both guided and lashed into the back of the net. It was baffling that the Republic of Ireland allowed Mahmudov so much space and he made them pay.

PLAYER RATINGS

Republic of Ireland: Bazunu 7, Coleman 7, Duffy 7, Egan 5; Doherty 5, Molumby 4, Cullen 5, McClean 4, Connolly 6, Idah 7, Parrott 5. Subs - Horgan 7, Collins 5, Hourihane 5, Robinson 4, Browne 4.
Azerbaijan: Mahammadaliyev 7, Medvedev 6, Haghverdi 6, Badalov 6, Krivotsyuk 6, Mahmudov 8, Garayev 6, Bayramov 5, Alasgarov 5, Madatov 6, Ozobic 4. Subs - Huseynov 4, Salahli 4, Sheydayev 4, Nuriyev 4, Akhmedzade 6.

KEY MOMENTS

45+1’ GOAL! Republic of Ireland 0-1 Azerbaijan (Mahmudov): My word - what a goal! The Irish defence stood off and allowed Mahmudov far too much time to get a shot away! Bazunu stood no chance of getting to that. It was an arrow into the corner of the Republic of Ireland net!
65’ So close to an equaliser! Ireland play on despite an Azerbaijan player being down on the ground, Horgan's cross into Idah is a good one, but he glances wide of the far post!
82’ Bazunu stops a second! That could have been game over as Ireland got caught high up the pitch. The angle was tight for Akhmedzade, but he still managed to get a shot away that needed saving!
87’ GOAL! Republic of Ireland 1-1 Azerbaijan (Duffy): A late equaliser and it's Duffy who has grabbed it! The Brighton centre back stayed up for a second cross into the box after a set piece and he powers home a header to restore parity. Can the Republic of Ireland find a winner here?

KEY STAT

  • Republic of Ireland have now gone 15 competitive games without a win.
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