A brace from Everton’s Aiden McGeady ensured Republic of Ireland left Georgia with all three points. The Irish midfielder netted half way through the first half and with a minute to go in normal time to seal an opening win in Ireland’s 2016 European Qualifiers. Georgia leveled in the first half through Tornike Okriashvili’s stunner but some McGeady magic sealed the victory.
In Martin O’Neil first competitive match as Ireland boss he named a strong Irish line up including Hull City’s Stephen Quinn who was a surprise selection after his good start to the season. David Forde continued in goal despite Shay Given coming back into form and playing in Ireland’s 2-0 over Oman on Wednesday night. Ireland had won all of their previous 5 matches against Georgia and were looking to open up their campaign strongly. Georgia adopted a 3-5-2 system but at times the wing backs struggle to push on to support meaning it was more of a 5-3-2 at times. Ireland played McGeady on the left with John Walters on the right, Stephen Quinn played just behind Robbie Keane in attack.
It was Georgia who had the first chance of the match when Nikoloz Gelashvili fired across goal but his shot was deflected wide. Marc Wilson was finding it hard whether to mark tight or back off the Georgia front line and on three separate occasions he was rolled far to easy. Ireland responded instantly, after Robbie Keane dummied the ball, James McCarthy received the ball and played a delicate through ball to his Everton teammate McGeady, who fired past Loria in the Georgia goal. A fine way to respond to recent criticism that he doesn’t score enough goals from midfield.
Georgia began to grow into the game more as the half went on and leveled through a stunning strike. After Wilson was once again too tight on Tornike Okriahvili, the Georgian midfielder created a little bit of space and unleashed a dipping strike which flew over the Irish defense and past the helpless Forde. Ireland had been sitting back after going in front and let Georgia capitalize and equalize.
It remained all square until the break where Loria had to replaced after picking up an injury before half time. Georgia remained dangerous with Okriahvili the danger man for the home side but Ireland were not playing to their best. McGeady went close with a free kick and began to have more impact as the game progressed. The midfielder went close with 15 minutes remaining, creating a small pocket of space but blazed over when just inside the box. The game looked like ending in a draw until a piece of Irish magic won the game, McGeady received the ball just on the edge of the box and with a beautiful turn created space for himself to curl the ball into the far corner to win the game for Ireland.
It was not vintage Ireland by all means but the main point was they got the three points to start their qualification campaign in the best possible way. With World Cup champions Germany in their group, Ireland will not top the group but should have enough to qualify with only Poland and Scotland providing real opposition for them. It sets them up nicely for their next two qualifiers against Gibraltar and Germany where they will be expecting a home win vs Gibraltar and any result in Germany will be a bonus. Martin O’Neil will be looking for a bit extra in the next home game but will happy with the end result.