The Republic of Ireland Men’s national football team ended their 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign on a high with a 3-0 win against Luxembourg away from home.
Shane Duffy, Chiedozie Ogbene and Callum Robinson got the goals at the Stade Du Luxembourg as Ireland banished the demons of the reverse fixture.
A cameo from Derby County star Jason Knight proved to be one for the history books as he was involved in all three goals, winning the free-kick that led to the opener and assisting the second and third.
The team had failed to qualify for next year’s winter-scheduled tournament in Qatar after poor results in their first half of fixtures but a strong second half of the campaign has underlined the growth the side has seen under Stephen Kenny.
The game provided a metaphor for the eight games (ten counting the friendlies with Qatar) as Ireland produced a patchy performance in their campaign closer, especially in the first half.
The boys in Orange, for the first time since a 0-0 draw against Mexico in May 1998 (and the first time in a competitive fixture since Macedonia…), took a while to get going while Luxembourg enjoyed their best period in the first 45 minutes.
The highlight of the first-half was an unbelievable save from Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu, who gets better and better with each game.
What a save from Bazunu. Thill's shot took a deflection but the Irish keeper reacted brilliantly and tipped it wide for a corner.#LUXIRL #rtesoccer
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) November 14, 2021
Stephen Kenny’s men grew into the game after Bazunu’s reflexes were flexed and Ogbene and John Egan came closest to putting them ahead but they had to go back into their dressing room without a goal to their name.
Luxembourg had the ball in the Irish net after a strong start to the second half but winger Danel Sinani was denied the opportunity to put his side in the lead – the referee brought play back for a foul.
The fateful introduction of Jason Knight came 62 minutes into the match and five minutes later Ireland had scored – Shane Duffy nodded home a set-piece won by Knight after being fouled by Sinani.
Ogbene dinked a second effort home after a beautiful period of play from the Irish that saw midfielders Jeff Hendrick and Knight combine to skewer the Luxembourg defence.
The game was wrapped up with two minutes of normal time to go when Callum Robinson tapped the ball in after a fantastic cross by James McClean was tapped back into space by Knight.
The victory made it Kenny and co.’s second of the campaign (third counting the Qatar friendles), seeing them finish three points above Luxembourg in third after eight in their last four games.
The match was the final one before Kenny’s current contract runs out and makes for an emphatic case for a renewal, which many fans are in favour of after the national team’s progression in the year.