Defeat to Luxembourg arguably Ireland’s worst ever home result

World Cup qualification hopes already look slim as Kenny’s winless run continues

Republic of Ireland 0 Luxembourg 1

A couple of good years under Martin O’Neill aside, perhaps, the new Lansdowne Road has not been anything like the fortress for Ireland that the old was in the team’s heyday but it had never previously been the scene for anything quite like this.

Losing to Luxembourg is arguably Ireland’s worst ever home defeat and, far from fearing the place ahead of their own visit, Azerbaijan are bound to watch the game back and rather fancy their chances of springing another surprise in September.

Just two games into the new campaign, though, and five months before a window in which Ireland must also play Portugal and Serbia, Ireland’s hopes of making it to the next World Cup look slender at best.


In the post-match press conference on Saturday, there were plenty of people pointing to a tactical approach the Dubliner had stuck with after what had been a promising performance, but defeat, in Serbia.

In theory, the shape of the side actually seemed to equip the players rather well to dominate what was on paper a lesser side but Ireland still struggled against opponents ranked 98th in the world.

Seamus Coleman certainly seemed to be at a loss as to why after a display he described as "embarrassing," although he talked about the way players had failed to take more responsibility out on the field by offering more and better options for each other.

As expected, the home side had significantly more of the ball but failed to do much at all to use the width their wing backs offered here. Luxembourg came with a game plan based around a 4-1-4-1 formation that was rarely seriously stretched by Ireland’s movement across the pitch or tested by the home side’s attacking players attempting to get beyond their defence.

Ireland had neither the imagination nor the pace in their play to really unsettle a side that was well organised and hard-working to be fair but, a couple of individuals aside, was no great shakes beyond that.

The entire game was uncomfortably even throughout and Luxembourg's persistent ability to generate chances of their own was always a concern

As he had beforehand, Kenny pointed to the fact that they had beaten lesser teams last year in the Nations League and ran both Ukraine and Serbia close enough in their Euro2020 campaign. Keeping decent teams to a one goal margin of victory is one thing, though... actually beating them quite another.

There were three changes here to the side that lost in Belgrade and, on a night short of silver linings, Gavin Bazunu did well enough on his senior international debut. The 19-year-old goalkeeper certainly looked more comfortable overall than Mark Travers on Wednesday while Knight moved the ball across midfield quite well at times and James Collins certainly showed more urgency than some of those around him.

Poor finishing

Still, the Luton striker accepted afterwards that he should have finished what had probably been Ireland's best move of the night in the first half when his sliding attempt to turn a Callum Robinson cross home was kept out by the goalkeeper's outstretched leg and he posed only the occasional threat in another display of collectively poor finishing.

At the time of his saved effort, it had still been possible to believe that the goal Ireland required would eventually come but, as a contest, the entire game was uncomfortably even throughout and Luxembourg’s persistent ability to generate chances of their own was always a concern.

In the end, they converted one five minutes short of the 90 when Gerson Rodriguez and Christopher Martins were allowed to control a long ball forward between them almost unchallenged between the Irish defence and midfield with the generally impressive Dynamo Kiev striker then doing well to find the bottom left corner from more than 20 yards.

The hosts’ pursuit of the win had inevitably left them that bit more open to being beaten but to have settled for a draw here would clearly have been unacceptable. As pretty much everyone accepted afterwards, though, the wider performance here was too.

Ireland: Bazunu (Rochdale); Coleman (Everton), O'Shea (West Brom), Clark (Newcastle United); Doherty (Tottenham), Knight (Derby), Cullen (Anderlecht), Stevens (Sheffield United); Browne (Preston); Collins (Luton Town), Robinson (West Brom). Subs: Brady (Burnley) for Doherty (half-time), McClean (Stoke City) for Clark (61 mins), Long (Bournemouth) for Robinson (73 mins), Molumby (Preston) for Cullen and Parrott (Ipswich Town) for Collins (88 mins).

Luxembourg: Moris (Union Satin-Gilloise); M Martins (Casa Pia), Chanot (New York City), Mahmutovic (Lviv), Jans (Standard Liege); C Martins (Young Boys); V Thill (Nacional, O Thill (Vorskla Poltava, Barreiro (Mainz), Rodrigues (Dynamo Kiev); Sinani (Waasland-Beverin). Subs: Deville (Saarbrucken) for V Thill (79 mins), Gerson Racing Santander) for Sinani (90 mins).

Referee: F Jovic (Croatia).

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times