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Bulgaria draw sees Ireland avo...
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Bulgaria draw sees Ireland avoid relegation but more frustration for Kenny

Richie McCormack
Richie McCormack

21:40 18 Nov 2020

The Republic of Ireland have avoided relegation to League C of the UEFA Nations League courtesy of a scoreless draw with Bulgaria.

However, there was more frustration for Stephen Kenny's charges as they surpassed the 11-hour mark without scoring a goal.

Ireland just about edged a nervy display from both sides, with Robbie Brady sending a second half shot crashing off the bar.

Chances for Ronan Curtis and James Collins also came and went, but Ireland lacked a genuine cutting edge.

Bulgaria were limited to half chances at best, as they resigned themselves to relegation to League C.

A wayward pass across the back line from Shane Duffy almost cost Ireland dear midway through the first half, but Aleksandar Tsvetkov with Kevin Long and Duffy eventually mopping up the danger.

Another misplaced pass three-minutes later from Knight allowed Dimitar Iliev through on goal, but his weak shot was gathered by Darren Randolph when other options appeared more dangerous.

Ireland's first real move of any incision came on the half-hour when Dara O'Shea got a run on Cicinho to loft a cross in for James Collins, but his header was snuffed out.

Seconds later, Duffy just failed to get adequate contact on an inviting free-kick from Robbie Brady.

Another Brady free-kick forced a quick-thinking save from Martin Lukov after it was allowed bounce through his area.

Ireland's best chance of the game came seven-minutes after the break, and again the right flank proved the more fecund.

Dara O'Shea whipped in a real cross with real venom which was met by a low volley from Collins which went just wide.

Then Ronan Curtis was set through on goal by Knight, but the Portsmouth man lacked any composure and sent his shot wide of the target.

Bulgaria should have been in front with 25-minutes to go. A corner from the right wasn't dealt with, and by the time Kristian Dimitrov dug a shot out from under his feet at close range, it deflected off Duffy and wide.

But closer Ireland went yet again, with substitute Josh Cullen imposing himself in midfield. Robbie Brady cut in from the right, losing Tsvetkov and sending a powerful shot that rattled the crossbar.

A tweaked hamstring saw Brady replaced by Jack Byrne for the final twelve minutes of the game.

With Byrne pulling the strings in the centre, it allowed Hourihane to drift left. He sent in a promising ball which neither Knight nor Collins could direct towards goal.

Troy Parrott and Seani Maguire were both sent on late in the game as Kenny sought out a first win of his tenure.

That must now wait until March at the earliest, and the World Cup qualifiers.

The point means that Ireland will be third seeds when the draw is made in December.

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