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Injury time Duffy header rescues point for Ireland in Bulgaria

Richie McCormack
Richie McCormack

21:41 3 Sep 2020

The reign of new Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny began with the most familiar result. 

An injury-time header from Shane Duffy rescued a 1-1 draw in Ireland's opening game of the Nations League away to Bulgaria.

The opening goal of the game came 11-minutes after half-time, when an incisive ball from Todor Nedelev split Shane Duffy and John Egan, allowing Bozhidar Kraev slot low past Darren Randolph.

Kenny was bold in his first team selection. Out went captain Seamus Coleman, replaced by Tottenham's new £15million man Matt Doherty.

There was a debut too for Norwich City striker Adam Idah, occupying no.9 role left vacant by the injured David McGoldrick. He played in a front-3 alongside Aaron Connolly and Callum O'Dowda.

Up until the goal, the best chances had arguably come the visitors' way.

Connolly's deflected shot produced the first real save from Bulgarian keeper Georgij Georgijev just 4-minutes before Kraev's opener.

Early in the game, Connolly had fooled Strahil Popov on the Bulgarian right, cut inside and curled a shot wide with Adam Idah and Callum O'Dowda arguably in better positions to score.

The Brighton livewire sent a cross into the area looking for a finish, but Georgijev gathered once again.

Callum Robinson, Robbie Brady and Shane Long were all introduced in the final quarter as Ireland sought an equaliser.

But Bulgaria were a far more competent and confident side than the one beaten 3-1 in Dublin a year ago.

As Georgijev's goal continued to untested, Bulgaria forged another good chance with 10-minutes remaining when Kostadinov played in Birsent Karageren, only for the substitute to drag his shot wide.

All appeared lost until Brady's corner from the left was met by Celtic's new signing to rescue a point.

Generally speaking, the green shoots of Kenny's early days are already showing.

By half-time, they'd made 295 passes, completing 271 of them. By comparison, away to Wales this time two-years ago, it took a full 90 minutes to amass 238 accurate passes from a 298 total. And all from a maximum of three training sessions.

Next up for Kenny and co is the visit of Finland to an empty Aviva Stadium on Sunday.

A Kieffer Moore goal 10-minutes from time in Helsinki saw the Finns beaten 1-0 by Wales.

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Read more about

Aaron Connolly Adam Idah Bulgaria Finland Ireland Matt Doherty Nations League Republic Of Ireland Seamus Coleman Shane Long Stephen Kenny Uefa Nations League Wales

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