David McGoldrick kept the Republic of Ireland firmly in the race for Euro 2020 qualification with a late header to deny Switzerland victory in Dublin.
Vladimir Petkovic’s men dominated proceedings at the Aviva Stadium, but left with just a point to show for their efforts on a night when they might have severely dented Irish hopes.
Here, the PA news agency takes a look at what we learned from an eventful 90 minutes.
Better late than never
Ireland may have left it late to snatch a 1-1 draw – McGoldrick’s equaliser arrived in the 85th minute – but it has happened too often to be pure coincidence. During this campaign alone, Mick McCarthy’s men have scored in the closing stages against the Swiss, Denmark and Gibraltar, while Jonathan Walters denied Austria a World Cup qualifier victory in Dublin in June 2017 and Robbie Brady famously fired Italy to defeat at the Euro 2016 finals, both in the 85th minute.
Swiss army strife
Switzerland arrived in Dublin with Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaqiri at the head of a list of absentees but confident they could still prevail, and they were very nearly proved correct. Denis Zakaria added vigour to a mobile midfield, while striker Breel Embolo lacked only a goal to cap an enterprising individual display and demonstrate that there are multiple blades among the armoury.
Muddle in the middle
McCarthy attempted to congest the middle of the field, with the hugely experienced Glenn Whelan, Conor Hourihane and Jeff Hendrick asked to impose a stranglehold on their opposite numbers. But despite their best efforts, they were rarely able to do it. Zakaria, Granit Xhaka and Remo Freuler dictated proceedings in the engine room to create so much space that central defender Fabian Schar was able to surge forward at regular intervals and eventually open the scoring. A repeat in Geneva next month may not go similarly unpunished.
Craft not graft
No Ireland team in recent years could be accused of not working hard and their commendable resilience is well known throughout football. However, there is an acknowledgement even within the camp that more inspiration would diminish the amount of perspiration required to get results. Winger James McClean, who provided the cross for McGoldrick’s goal, is a regular contributor, but McCarthy turned to substitute Alan Judge in the search for a spark both in Denmark and against the Swiss, and his ability to pick a pass could prove invaluable.
A return of six goals from five games, three of which were scored against Gibraltar, tells its own story, but McGoldrick’s first for his country means the statistic that none of McCarthy’s strikers had found the back of the net in international football is no longer correct. The Sheffield United marksman is not a conventional frontman, doing much of his work around the fringes to create openings for others, but his maiden strike demonstrated that he can prosper at the sharp end.
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