UEFA Euro 2020 Play-Off Report: Slovakia 0 - 0 Republic of Ireland (Slovakia win 4-2 on penalties)

Fri, Oct 09 2020
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None Credit: Michael P Ryan (ETPhotos)

The Republic of Ireland were left to rue missed opportunities in 90 minutes, extra time and penalties as the dream of playing in Euro 2020 on home soil evaporated in the mist of Bratislava.

Stephen Kenny and his players had spoken to the media in the build-up about the possibility of penalties and Matt Doherty expressed his willingness to step up if required.

The Tottenham Hotspur full-back probably didn’t anticipate that he would be placed in the no-win scenario of taking the spot-kick to keep Ireland’s hopes alive. He missed.

Alan Browne saw Ireland’s third kick, after Conor Hourihane and Robbie Brady had both found the net, palmed away by Slovakia keeper Marek Rodak.

An audacious Panenka from substitute Jan Gregus, which a wrongfooted Darren Randolph was a fingertip from keeping out, left Doherty needing to score but his effort from 12 yards struck the bar.

Stephen Kenny summed up the feeling of an opportunity missed at full time when he said, “we deserved to win.” That may be pushing it slightly, but Ireland certainly didn’t deserve to lose.

They had chances enough to win the game – Hourihane’s costly miss from five yards led to extra time, while substitute Browne was desperately unlucky to hit the post in extra time.

The home side had chances of their own, too, Lukas Haraslin denied by a superb goalline clearance from captain Shane Duffy, while Darren Randolph superbly saving from Ondrej Duda in the first half.

The longer the game went on, however, it became more and more apparent that the home side were content to hold on for penalties while Kenny’s side showed the more positive initiative.

He had lost likely starter Aaron Connolly, as well as Adam Idah, on the day of the game after they were deemed to be close contacts of a staff member who tested positive for Covid-19.

Napoli’s Stanislav Lobotka and Inter’s Milan Skriniar missed out for the Slovaks for similar reasons, though they at least had more time to prepare for their absence.

Lobotka was a particularly big loss for the home side, as he sets their tempo in midfield, but with Juraj Kucka and Marek Hamsik they were well able to hold their own, and more, in the centre.

The visitors struggled to keep their foot on the ball in the opening stages, though they did register a shot on goal inside the first minute when Callum Robinson’s shot was blocked by Denis Vavro.

Ireland’s midfield trio of James McCarthy, Hourihane and Jeff Hendrick worked hard off the ball and ensured the home side’s dominance of the ball didn’t convert to chances.

Slovakia would have to wait until the closing stages of the half for their first real chance, Duda picking up a second ball in the box and curling a disguised shot low towards the bottom corner.

Randolph saw it late but showed good reflexes to get down and turn it behind. From the corner, Duda’s acrobatic effort bounced inches wide of the post.

Minutes earlier, James McClean spurned an excellent chance when the ball broke to him eight yards out, but he scuffed his shot when any firm contact would surely have led to the opener.

Early in the second half, Hamsik was fortunate that the richochet from his inadvertent connection with Hourihane’s free kick bounced wide of the post.

Browne replaced the injured McCarthy midway through the second half and he had a glorious chance to put his side in front when played in by Enda Stevens, but his near-post shot was saved.

Moments later, Haroslin very nearly broke the deadlock with his first touch since replacing Jaroslav Mihalik but his goalbound effort was blocked on the line by Duffy.

Hourihane should have won it five minutes from time when an intricate move ended with Browne shoveling Robinson’s pass to the Aston Villa man.

With the goal gaping, Hourihane tamely nudged the ball towards goal where Kucka had retreated to throw his body in the way.

Slovakia had edged possession but it was the visitors who had shown more wit in the final third and that continued into extra time as Browne again went close.

Callum O’Dowda, on for his namesake Robinson, was the architect as he combined with Robbie Brady and cut the ball back to the near post, but the Corkman’s flick came back off the post.

Kenny replaced the excellent McGoldrick with Shane Long late on but the final chance fell to Brady, who sent an optimistic 30-yard free kick past the post.

Both teams seemed contented to settle for penalties as tired bodies began to wilt but it was the Slovaks who guaranteed a play-off final in Belfast next month with a perfect four from four.

Slovakia: Marek Rodak; Robert Mazan, Peter Pekarik, Martin Valjent, Denis Vavro (Norbert Gyomber 112); Patrik Hrosovsky, Marek Hamsik, Juraj Kucka (Jan Gregus 86); Ondrej Duda (Robert Bozenik 107), Jaroslav Mihalik (Lukas Haraslín 73), Albert Rusnak (Robert Mak 86).

Subs not used: Dusan Kuciak, Martin Koscelník, Dominik Greif, Matús Bero, Lukas Pauschek, Ivan Schranz.

Booked: Ondrej Duda (101), Marek Hamsik (114).

Republic of Ireland: Darren Randolph; John Egan, Shane Duffy, Matt Doherty, Enda Stevens; Conor Hourihane, Jeff Hendrick, James McCarthy (Alan Browne 61); James McClean (Robbie Brady 61), David McGoldrick (Shane Long 112), Callum Robinson (Callum O'Dowda 99).

Subs not used: Caoimhin Kelleher (gk), Mark Travers (gk) Cyrus Christie, Jayson Molumby, Derrick Williams, Jack Byrne.

Booked: James McClean (48) ,Shane Duffy (68) ,Stephen Kenny (120)

Referee: Clément Turpin (France).

Extratime.ie Player of the Match: David McGoldrick (Republic of Ireland).

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