Switzerland defeat leaves Ireland stuck in the mud
Ireland will now need to beat Denmark in Dublin next month to qualify for Euro 2020
Ireland’s Darren Randolph makes a save against Switzerland. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
No famous victory in the end then, nor even the draw that would have left the Danes with a day off to look forward to in Dublin next month. There was no disguising that this was another hugely disappointing night for Ireland and at the final whistle only a trip to the duty free stood between Mick McCarthy and co leaving Switzerland completely empty handed. After all the drama here, they might be forgiven for feeling they needed something to calm the nerves.
On top of this defeat, though, the second half dismissal of Seamus Coleman on a poor night for the Irish skipper leaves the Irish team without its captain for a game against Denmark that must be won now. Matt Doherty may get his chance to make his mark in a game that McCarthy might concede really does feel like a cup final. Switzerland won theirs here courtesy of a first half Haris Seferovic goal, a goal that may or may not go down as a Shane Duffy own goal in the dying seconds and a performance that prevented Ireland ever getting sufficiently to grips with things to save themselves while they were still in with a shout of doing that.
The sending off, for a handball in the area after Coleman had been booked early for his part in a confrontation with Granit Xhaka had ended that period of the game and for the last quarter of an hour the visitors were hanging on. A beaten team but one that rather bravely refused to concede that the game was up.
Just before the end Seferovic thought he had scored their second but Glenn Whelan, by far the most impressive of the Irish midfield, somehow made a block that left the Switzerland striker shaking his head in disbelief. It was that sort of night and had Ireland been on the verge of salvaging something through all of this effort it might well have been described as heroic.
As it was, their defeat was confirmed with the second last kick of the game. With Darren Randolph’s defence hopelessly stretched and presumably close to dead on their feet, Edimilson Fernandes sought to push a low shot towards the bottom left corner. Duffy intervened but could nothing other than turn the ball towards the far side of the goal.
That there would be so much spirit from the Irish we have come to expect on nights like this, but they were indisputably second best again and really there might easily have been another couple of goals. Randolph kept a couple of likely ones, including a penalty, out in what was an impressive display of goalkeeping but there was nothing he could have done about either of the goals.
By the end of the first half, McCarthy had sought to tweak the starting formation on a couple of occasions and there were there was the occasional suggestions that Ireland, then a goal down, might be capable of exerting some influence over the proceedings. The initial decision to start Aaron Connolly with James Collins beside him had not worked with both strikers left isolated as the visitors came off completely second best in midfield.
All of the problems encountered on Saturday were evident again through those early stages, though, with the Irish, it seemed, incapable of effectively closing their opponents down, most conspicuously in the 15 metres in front of their own area.
There was some early feistiness from Collins and James McClean intended, one presumes, to send a message, but there was little enough by way of more composed passing play immediately afterwards and the visitors soon found themselves chasing the game from behind. McClean’s carelessness when presented with the chance to get Ireland pushing forward was the first step towards the setback with Switzerland needlessly gifted a throw in from which they worked the ball across the field then up it.
Their first attempt to play the ball into the box was intercepted by Jeff Hendrick but Manuel Akanji then beat Whelan in the air and Seferovic was given enough space just outside the area to tee up a fine low drive to the bottom corner that Randolph had no real chance of keeping out.
It was scrappy stuff, not helped by a pitch that had been rained on all day and the subject of an inspection not long before the kick off and, predictably perhaps, the scrappier it got for a while the closer Ireland seemed to come to holding their own. Duffy, in fact, might well have pulled his side level when he got a free header to Whelan’s corner but it was directed at Yann Sommer and McCarthy’s men never went quite as close tom scoring again.
The Swiss always seemed more likely to make something of theirs with Seferovic forcing a stunning save from Randolph when he turned a Granit Xhaka free goalwards and Fabian Schar hitting the post.
In the end, though, the Swiss were well worth the late goal that sealed it and the rugby style scoreless draw that might have come with an unplayable pitch must have seemed like a fairly attractive proposition to McCarthy.
His team will have to do it the hard way against the Danes now but they can have no complaints about having to beat a decent at home to go to a European Championships.
Republic of Ireland: Randolph (Middlesbrough; Egan (Sheffield United), Duffy (Brighton), Stevens (Sheffield United); Coleman (Everton), Hendrick (Burnley), Whelan (Hearts), Browne (Preston), McClean (Stoke City); Collins (Luton Town), Connolly (Brighton). Subs: O’Dowda (Bristol City) for Collins (half-time), Hogan (Stoke City) for Connolly (70 mins).
Switzerland: Sommer (Borussia Monchengladbach); Elvedi (Borussia Monchengladbach), Schär (Newcastle United), Akanji (Borussia Dortmund); Mbabu (Wolfsbug), Zakaria (Borussia Monchengladbach), Xhaka (Arsenal), Embolo (Borussia Monchengladbach), Rodriguez (Milan); Mehmedi (Wolfsburg), Seferovic (Benfica). Subs: Fernandes (Mainz) for Mehmedi (28 mins), Freuler (Atalanta) for Lichtsteiner (70 mins) Steffen (Wolfsburg) for Embolo (88 mins).
Referee: S Marciniak (Poland).