Republic held goalless in Georgia stalemate

Tbilisi (AFP) –


Republic of Ireland were forced to settle for a dour 0-0 draw against Georgia in Tbilisi as their bid to qualify for Euro 2020 suffered a setback on Saturday.

Mick McCarthy's side couldn't establish any momentum at the Boris Paichadze Arena and were left frustrated by wayward finishing from their few opportunities to break the deadlock.

On the day their rugby union counterparts qualified for the World Cup quarter-finals, Ireland's road to Euro 2020 is still in the balance.

Unbeaten Ireland remain top of Group D after six games, but second placed Denmark are just three points behind with a game in hand, while Switzerland in third have played two fewer games and trail the leaders by four points.

Ireland face Switzerland in Geneva on Tuesday and round off their qualifying campaign at home to Denmark next month.

Georgia boss Vladimir Weiss had described Ireland as playing like Riverdance Irish-American dance star Michael Flatley in the pre-match build-up.

But there was precious little entertainment from either team in a gruelling war of attrition.

Early on, Valeri Qazaishvili broke into the Ireland area after exchanging passes with Jano Ananidze, but his finish did not match the quality of the approach play.

Ireland responded as Conor Hourihane curled his free-kick towards John Egan and the Ireland defender headed against the post.

Luton striker James Collins was handed a competitive debut for the Republic, in place of the injured David McGoldrick, after scoring as a substitute on his debut in last month's friendly win over Bulgaria.

But, with Georgia dominating possession for long periods, Collins struggled to make an impact before he was replaced by Brighton teenager Aaron Connolly in the closing stages.

Georgia threatened when Jano Ananidze dragged wide after being set up by Giorgi Kvilitaia, before Qazaishvili squandered another sight of goal from the edge of area.

Callum Robinson gave the Georgia defence a scare 10 minutes before the break when his cross was just too strong for James McClean.

Georgia keeper Giorgi Loria almost gifted Ireland the lead within seconds of the restart when he spilled McClean's cross, although he recovered before Jeff Hendrick could pounce on the loose ball.

There was little to separate the teams after the break. Ananidze curled a free-kick well over. Hendrick lashed into the side-netting after a goal-mouth scramble. Connolly's late cameo saw the striker sprint clear on goal only to slash wide.