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The Republic of Ireland failed to assert their dominance on a resilient Azerbaijan defence in a frustrating draw at the Aviva Stadium in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
The Republic of Ireland had the lion’s share of possession throughout the game but a 25-yard strike from Azerbaijani midfielder Emin Makhmudov forced Stephen Kenny’s side to chase the game in the second half.
The ever-reliable Shane Duffy headed home with three minutes to spare in normal time to share the spoils with the visitors but Ireland failed to deliver on the promise they showed on Wednesday against Portugal.
Duffy and co. started out as the better side, applying pressure on a three-man defence that appeared as if holes could be exposed in it.
However, as the half went on, Ireland’s history under Stephen Kenny of being wasteful in front of goal had another chapter added to it as the side failed to take the lead despite having several strong chances to do so.
Ireland’s 3-4-3 formation failed to impact their play positively with a midfield who struggled to keep possession and an overreliance on creativity down the right flank.
Azerbaijan got to grips with the game and started pushing back and applying pressure on the hosts’ back five.
Ireland weathered much of the storm but not without some alarming amounts of space being afforded to the opponents on the ball at times.
The half looked to be ending without a goal before Makhmudov rifled the ball past Gavin Bazunu, shocking the Aviva and putting Giovanni De Biasi’s side ahead.
De Biasi’s defensive tactics shone in the second half as the Republic of Ireland were frustrated time and time again.
The game followed the trend Azerbaijan have showcased in recent history of allowing at least twice as many shots against themselves as they took.
However, the Azerbaijani defence, namely a narrow back three and goalkeeper Sahruddin Mehemmedeliyev, held firm.
Wycombe Wanderers striker Daryl Horgan came on in place of Aaron Connolly and injected some much-needed urgency into the side.
Troy Parrott was taken off 17 minutes into the second half with Jayson Molumby on in his place.
Parrott struggled throughout the game after being placed in a deeper role than usual – it was not uncommon to see Idah centrally and Parrott behind him with no presence on the right-hand side in the final third.
Ireland got their goal with minutes to spare courtesy of Shane Duffy, who became the side’s joint top-scorer under Stephen Kenny with his equaliser – Duffy and Parrott have both scored two since Kenny’s first game in charge.
The team pushed for a winner but could not find it and come out of their first half of World Cup Qualifier fixtures with just a point to show for it.
The Republic of Ireland host Serbia on Tuesday, September 7 in the first of their reverse fixtures against their Group A opponents.
Serbia smacked Luxembourg 4-1 in the Red Star Stadium in Belgrade and have given Ireland a mountain to climb to get out of the group – although it does not seem like Stephen Kenny’s side have a chance.