Republic of Ireland miss chance to take control of Group D after draw in Georgia | Football
The Republic of Ireland failed to take control of Group D after a poor-quality Euro 2020 qualifier in Tbilisi ended goalless.
James Collins was handed a competitive debut for the Republic of Ireland. The Luton striker, who scored as a substitute on his debut in last month’s friendly win over Bulgaria, was named in the starting line-up at the Boris Paichadze Arena, one of three changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Switzerland.
Collins came in for the injured David McGoldrick, while Matt Doherty replaced suspended left-back Enda Stevens and John Egan took over from Richard Keogh in central defence.
The home side signalled their intent from the off when Valeri Qazaishvili exchanged passes with Jano Ananidze on the edge of the area only to slash his shot wide under pressure.
Ireland came within inches of taking the lead when Egan met Conor Hourihane’s free-kick with a glancing header, only to see the ball come back off the post.
Georgia did not let up with Otar Kiteishvili pulling the strings in central midfield behind Ananidze, Qazaishvili and striker Giorgi Kvilitaia.
Callum Robinson gave the home defence a scare 10 minutes before the break when he found a yard of space on the right to cross, although his delivery was just too strong for James McClean in the middle.
Giorgi Loria almost gifted the visitors a lead within seconds of the restart when he spilled McClean’s cross, although he managed to recover before Jeff Hendrick could do any damage.
Whelan had to head away Ananidze’s near-post cross after Georgia almost caught Ireland flat-footed from a quickly taken corner, but the massed ranks of green shirts were proving a formidable barrier.
Ananidze was handed a chance to open the scoring with 66 minutes gone after being tripped by Whelan just outside the area but he curled the free-kick high over the bar.
Hendrick lashed a shot from a tight angle into the side-netting with 15 minutes remaining and McCarthy made his move four minutes later when he sent on 19-year-old Aaron Connolly for his senior debut in place of Collins but there was to be no grandstand finish. Ireland face Denmark and Switzerland in their remaining games knowing they will need to take something from them.