Saturday, June 25, 2022

Ireland’s winless streak in the Nations League continues with a defeat by Ukraine

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Viktor Tsygankov condemned the Republic of Ireland to another losing streak in the Nations League as Ukraine recovered from their World Cup heartbreak and won in Dublin.

The Dynamo Kyiv midfielder came on as a half-time substitute and passed keeper Caoimhin Kelleher with a 48th-minute free-kick to secure a 1-0 win at the Aviva Stadium and extend Ireland’s winless streak to 12 games in the competition.

That Oleksandr Petrakov’s men prevailed despite making ten changes against Wales on Sunday said a lot about their strength at depth, but also highlighted again their lack of guts and creativity compared to Stephen Kenny, who saw how defender Shane Duffy was denied by the woodwork late.

Even as they found time and space, poor decision-making meant goalkeeper Andriy Lunin had little to make a save to speak of, and Kenny’s hopes of winning Group B of the league look ahead to Scotland’s visit to Dublin on Saturday following back-to already lost from -back defeats to Armenia and Ukraine.

Petrakov had admitted in advance that the emotional and physical fallout from events in Cardiff combined with the ongoing Russian invasion at home had taken its toll on his players, but even those with fresh legs faced it as the home side started strong.

Jason Knight, preferred to Troy Parrott on the left side of a back three, fired early on Lunin and Chiedozie Ogbene saw his cross shot cut off the post after intercepting the keeper’s attempted pass to Oleksandr Syrota in the hosts’ high press early dividends paid.

Lunin had to parry Knight’s long-range shot in the 10th minute, with Ireland looking much more menacing than at any point in Yerevan on Saturday, although Mykhaylo Mudryk whistled a long-range shot high over Kelleher’s crossbar to warn of what might be in store.

Vitaliy Mykolenko drilled a speculative try wide of goal as playmaker Mykola Shaparenko began to exert his influence and Mudryk might have done better after being played into space by Shaparenko but poked the ball harmlessly over the goal.

However, Ogbene was just as wasteful after escaping Syrota’s attention by firing an ambitious shot straight at defender Valeriy Bondar in the 21st minute while Callum Robinson asked for a square ball down the middle.

As the pace settled, so did Ukraine, and Duffy had to throw himself down the barrel of Serhiy Sydorchuk’s shot before Kelleher deftly dealt with Oleksandr Zubkov’s equally well-placed shot.

Robinson vainly claimed a penalty in the 33rd minute after falling under Bondar’s challenge while chasing Jeff Hendrick’s skillful pass, but Ireland had eight minutes of half-time remaining when Taras Kacharaba’s sweet mid-game strike was ruled out for offside Build up after a VAR review.

Knight saw a snap blocked within seconds of the restart after Cyrus Christie and Ogbene combined on the right, but Ireland fell behind as Tsygankov’s free-kick missed all down the middle and Kelleher, expecting a touch, flew into his far post .

With Shaparenko at the helm and striker Artem Dovbyk bolstering home defence, the visitors dominated an Ireland side who were once again running out of inspiration, although they were very unfortunate to be unbalanced eleven minutes from time when Duffy headed in against the bar cracked.

Substitute Michael Obafemi looked wide and Josh Cullen smashed a long-range shot just wide of the same post, with Lunin on target in a rousing finish, but it was all too little, too late and Tysgankov saw like an injury-time shot deflected to the bar.

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