Finland 1-0 Republic of Ireland: Stephen Kenny remains without a win as Irish boss


Fredrik Jensen celebrates scoring Finland's winner as Republic centre-back Dara O'Shea shows his frustration
Fredrik Jensen scored Finland’s 66th-minute winner after Darren Randolph’s errant short kick-out

Stephen Kenny remains without a win in his five games as Republic of Ireland boss as his coronavirus-hit side lost 1-0 to Finland in the Nations League.

As was the case in Dublin last month, Fredrik Jensen hit the winner – a short kick-out by Republic keeper Darren Randolph gifting the hosts possession.

Enda Stevens hit the woodwork for the Republic with Ronan Curtis, Aaron Connolly and Jeff Hendrick going close.

Teemu Pukki missed two great first-half opportunities for the hosts.

But the Norwich striker atoned for those misses in the 66th minute by intercepting Randolph’s errant kick-out and squaring for Jensen, who lashed into the net from close range for the Euro 2020 qualifiers after his initial effort had been blocked by Republic debutant Dara O’Shea.

The Republic pressed frantically in the closing stages but Finland keeper Lukas Hradecky denied Connolly before making an even better injury-time stop to frustrate substitute Curtis.

The Republic again produced some neat approach work with Connolly and Hendrick both particularly prominent.

However, on several occasions the final pass was misplaced while striker Sean Maguire failed to control a threatening ball from Connolly just before half-time.

The Irish remain without a win in eight Nations League games while Finland continue their fight at the top of the Group B4 with Wales.

Republic hit by series of Covid-19 blows

The Republic’s build-up to Wednesday’s match was dominated by a succession of coronavirus-related blows which started with Brighton striker Connolly and Norwich’s Adam Idah being ruled out of the Euro 2020 play-off defeat by Slovakia last Thursday.

It later transpired the Covid-19 test involving a member of the Republic’s backroom staff, who was a close contact of the duo, had been a false positive, which left the management infuriated that they had been without the players in the game which they lost in a penalty shootout.

If that was not bad enough, five Republic players – including certain starters John Egan, Alan Browne, Callum O’Dowda and Callum Robinson – were late withdrawals from Sunday’s Nations League game against Wales after being deemed close contacts of another unnamed squad member who tested positive for Covid-19.

The chaos inflicted on the Republic squad by coronavirus over the past week culminated with another unnamed player being confirmed to have tested positive for the virus in the early hours of Tuesday after conflicting results from two earlier tests.

That was all on top of skipper Seamus Coleman, David McGoldrick, James McCarthy and Harry Arter being ruled out by injury and James McClean missing after his late red card against Wales, which meant that more than a dozen players were unavailable.

After his return to the squad, Connolly was recalled to the attack with West Brom centre-back O’Shea handed a debut and Wycombe winger Daryl Horgan and Preston striker Maguire also drafted into the starting line-up which showed four changes from Sunday.

The Republic of Ireland's Aaron Connolly attempts to get past Finland's Joona Toivio
Aaron Connolly was back in the Republic side after a Covid-19 false positive test in the camp had ruled him out of the two games over the past week

A crowd of 8,000 watch the game

In front of a crowd of 8,000 allowed to watch the game in the Olympic Stadium, the Republic’s intent to play out from the back, as demanded by Kenny, was again clear from the start.

Maguire’s break down the left set up a chance for Hendrick in the 12th minute after Horgan’s pull-back but the Newcastle midfielder’s shot was blocked.

Connolly’s increasing importance to Kenny’s game plan was obvious as his pace and trickery troubled the Finns with Maguire’s woefully heavy touch to the Brighton man’s ball to his feet just outside the six-yard box particularly frustrating for the visitors.

But there were first-half warning signs for the Irish as Pukki fired across the face of goal after being played in by Pyry Soiri and then dragged wide after his direct run to the edge of the penalty area.

After a scrappy 15 minutes following the resumption, the game livened up after the hour as West Brom youngster O’Shea blocked a chance for Finland sub Ilmari Nishanen before Stevens hooked against the home side’s woodwork in the 64th minute.

But two minutes later the Finns were in front as Pucci picked up Randolph’s attempt to find Horgan with the quick kick-out and set up Jensen to net at the second attempt.

As the Republic pressed, they created chances but home keeper Hradecky tipped over Matt Doherty’s backheader before brilliantly pushing away Curtis’ header at the foot of his right-hand post in injury time.

Match stats

  • The Republic have failed to score in four consecutive competitive matches for the first time since March 1989.
  • Finland have won five of their six home Nations League games.
  • Of the Republic of Ireland’s past 20 matches, 16 have been goalless at half-time, including each of their past six.
  • Ireland have won just one of their past 13 away games.

Line-ups

Finland

  • 1Hrádecky
  • 3GranlundSubstituted forRaitalaat 86′minutes
  • 4Toivio
  • 2Arajuuri
  • 18Uronen
  • 13SoiriSubstituted forNiskanenat 45′minutes
  • 14Sparv
  • 6KamaraSubstituted forSchüllerat 76′minutes
  • 8Taylor
  • 9JensenBooked at 42minsSubstituted forKaukoat 86′minutes
  • 10PukkiSubstituted forPohjanpaloat 81′minutes

Substitutes

  • 5Ojala
  • 7Karjalainen
  • 11Schüller
  • 12Joronen
  • 15Väisänen
  • 16Pirinen
  • 17Alho
  • 19Kauko
  • 20Pohjanpalo
  • 21Niskanen
  • 22Raitala
  • 23Mäenpää

R. of Ireland

  • 23Randolph
  • 2Doherty
  • 4Duffy
  • 15O’Shea
  • 3Stevens
  • 22MolumbySubstituted forKnightat 83′minutes
  • 6Hourihane
  • 11HorganSubstituted forCurtisat 75′minutes
  • 13HendrickSubstituted forIdahat 75′minutes
  • 7ConnollyBooked at 80mins
  • 8MaguireSubstituted forBradyat 53′minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Travers
  • 5Long
  • 9Long
  • 10Brady
  • 12Knight
  • 14Cullen
  • 16Kelleher
  • 17Manning
  • 18Idah
  • 19Curtis
  • 20Christie

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