Stephen Kenny’s hopes of earning a contract extension were handed a major boost as the Republic of Ireland romped to a 3-0 win over Luxembourg in their final World Cup Qualifier.
Goals from Shane Duffy, Chiedozie Ogbene and Callum Robinson inside the final 22 minutes clinched victory – just Ireland’s second in a competitive fixture in 15 attempts – and third place in Group A behind Serbia and Portugal.
President Gerry McAnaney and chief executive officer Jonathan Hill were among a Football Association of Ireland delegation at the Stade De Luxembourg as they prepare to sit down to discuss Kenny’s future after a campaign which started badly but has finished in more promising fashion.
Luxembourg played a significant part in that dreadful start when they won 1-0 at the Aviva Stadium in March, but although they had a goal correctly chalked off with the score at 0-0, they rarely threatened a repeat in front of a
capacity crowd of 9,268 at their new stadium.
In front of FIFA president Gianni Infantino – who was booed loudly by the crowd – and Luxembourg’s Grand Duke Henri, it was Luxembourg goalkeeper Ralph Schon who was first into the action, diving to his left to palm away Robinson’s dipping ninth-minute strike after the excellent Ogbene had been played into space down the right and delivered an inviting cross.
Adam Idah appealed unsuccessfully for a 14th-minute penalty after going down under defender Vahid Selimovic’s challenge, and Ogbene went similarly unrewarded three minutes later after Maxime Chanot appeared to tug at his shirt after he had burst past him.
The pace of Ogbene and Robinson and the width provided by James McClean were causing Luxembourg real problems, although the wrong-footed Gavin Bazunu had to react smartly to acrobatically turn away Olivier Thill’s attempt from distance after it had clipped Josh Cullen on its way to goal.
Gerson Rodrigues, who had scored five of his side’s eight goals for the campaign before kick-off, was keeping the Republic rearguard engaged with his clever movement and trickery while Thill was busy in midfield, but with little or no end product.
But Schon needed strong hands to divert Ogbene’s rising drive over five minutes before the break and then claw away John Egan’s header with Ireland looking the more likely to force their way in front.
Idah flicked a Jeff Hendrick cross wide with Robinson perhaps better placed behind him and the Newcastle midfielder screwed a shot wide from Matt Doherty’s through-ball as Ireland resumed with real purpose.
Doherty blasted high and wide from long range with the momentum increasing, although it might have died on 54 minutes when the home side thought they had taken the lead.
Danel Sinani was well into his celebration after thumping Laurent Jans’ cross past Bazunu, but Hungarian referee Tamas Bognar ruined his evening by blowing for a foul on Duffy by substitute Maurice Deville during the build-up.
Luxembourg’s misery increased 22 minutes from time when, after Selimovic had been penalised for a foul on substitute Jason Knight, he then got his head to Josh Cullen’s free-kick, but could only help it on to Duffy at the far post and he powered it into the net from point-blank range.
It deepened seven minutes later when Hendrick picked out Knight’s run into the box and he audaciously back-heeled it square for Ogbene to lift the ball over the advancing Schon, and was complete with two minutes remaining when Knight turned McClean’s cross back across goal for Robinson to tap into an empty net.
Republic of Ireland reaction: Kenny and Ogbene
Stephen Kenny told Sky Sports: “It was a tough game. They play some good football. We felt they can hurt us but we can hurt them and exploit the back four with pace. We lacked control in the first half but we went for it out of possession and left ourselves exposed. But we knew we could score. We created chances and are delighted to win.
“We got in several times. The final pass wasn’t quite right. It was pretty open and frenetic. We knew we just had to win the game, get after them and force errors.
“One of the advantages of being U21 manager previously is that I know the character of the players, I know Jason Knight’s strength and characteristics. We are delighted to have him.
“Since we lost to Luxembourg and Portugal we are doing well. We know we are not perfect but there are players coming through and more to come. There was pressure on the players and they have responded. They are a pleasure to work with. It is a collective effort.
“I would rather the fans sing about the players than me. I appreciate it but it is about players. Ours have been magnificent over the last few months.”
Chiedozie Ogbene told Sky Sports: “I’m delighted to get on the scoresheet, but I owe it to the team.
“We came here and got a 3-0 win and to keep a clean sheet away from home against a strong team. The game plan worked well and everybody dug deep.
“Credit to them [the fans for coming out here,” he said. “It’s a cold place today. To come out and support us, we needed their support. You could tell towards the end of the game they were getting into it and they lifted us and we scored again to kill the game.”
- Republic of Ireland have won three of their last four matches in all competitions (D1), as many as their previous 22 beforehand (W3 D11 L8).
- Republic of Ireland have scored 20 goals in 12 internationals in 2021, two more than they scored in 27 games across 2018, 2019 and 2020 combined before this (18 goals).
- Luxembourg have lost 10 of their last 13 matches (W3) in qualifying for major international tournaments (World Cup & EUROs), also losing six of their last seven such fixtures at home (W1).
- Republic of Ireland have kept a clean sheet in four consecutive internationals under a single manager for the first time since October 2011, a run of eight under Giovanni Trapattoni.
- Shane Duffy has scored three goals in his last six internationals, as many as his previous 33 for Republic of Ireland beforehand. All seven of his senior international goals have been headed.
- Chiedozie Ogbene is the first player to score in both of his first two competitive away internationals for Republic of Ireland since Stephen Ireland in 2007. Ogbene has more goals in his five senior international games (two) than he does in 58 appearances in all competitions for his current club Rotherham United (one).
- Having only scored once in his first 20 senior internationals for Republic of Ireland, Callum Robinson has since bagged six in his last four for his country.