Bulgaria 1 Republic of Ireland 1
Shane Duffy played a captain’s role as his equaliser against Bulgaria in injury time gave the Republic of Ireland a 1-1 draw in their UEFA Nations League game in Sofia tonight.
A Bozhidar Kraev goal in the 56th minute gave Bulgaria the lead despite an impressive display from the Republic of Ireland before the new Celtic signing Duffy equalised with a powerful header from a corner to give his side a point.
With Stephen Kenny beginning his tenure as national team manager, the former Dundalk FC manager gave a senior international debut to 19-year-old Adam Idah, and also named new Tottenham signing Matt Doherty instead of Séamus Coleman, Callum O’Dowda started, while the Dubliner also chose James McCarthy for his first international game since 2016.
Bulgaria coach Georgi Dermendzhiev made numerous changes to the side that beat the Czech Republic in their last Euro 2020 qualifier with only keeper Georgi Georgiev, defenders Strahil Popov and Petar Zanev and midfielders Georgi Kostadinov and Kristiyan Malinov surviving.
Despite retaining possession well, showing some composure on the ball, and pressing impressively in the opening 45 minutes, the game was scoreless at the interval, as Aaron Connolly had the best chance for Kenny’s side during that period.
Bozhidar Kraev, who had been pretty anonymous throughout the game, broke the deadlock in the 56th minute. Nedelev sent a perfect pass up the middle for the unmarked Kraev, who has been played onside by Shane Duffy. The Bulgarian took a touch before slotting the ball low past Darren Randolph and into the net.
Just when it looked as though Stephen Kenny’s managerial stint would begin with a loss, Shane Duffy cropped up at the far post in the 93rd minute to score from a Robbie Brady-taken corner kick. Brady, who had won the corner, curled the ball into the Bulgarian penalty area, finding Duffy, who headed past goalkeeper Georgiev to claim the equaliser.
Final score: Bulgaria 1 Republic of Ireland 1.
Republic of Ireland: Randolph, Doherty, Egan, Duffy, Stevens, Hendrick, McCarthy, Hourihane, Connolly, Idah, O’Dowda.
Bulgaria: Georgiev, Popov, Zanev, Dimitrov, Nedyalkov, Malinov, Kostadinov, Ivanov, Kraev, Delev, Nedelev.