Republic of Ireland missed the chance to go top of their Nations League group after a 1-1 draw with Ukraine.
Burnley’s Nathan Collins silenced the vocal Ukraine crowd in the Polish city of Lodz just after the half-hour mark with a superb solo goal – winning the ball in the opposition half before jinking past three defenders as he strode forward and poked home.
But seconds after the restart, Artem Dovbyk’s close-range finish legged back Stephen Kenny’s side, to deny Ireland a first ever away win in this competition.
In the context of their Nations League table, Ireland remain three points behind Ukraine at the top of the table – and are also two behind Scotland, who beat Armenia 4-1 earlier on Tuesday.
Kenny announced before the game that victory against last year’s European Championship quarter-finalists would be a better achievement than their 3-0 win over Scotland on Saturday, but Ireland were not a side who looked overawed by their opponents in Poland.
Derby midfielder Jason Knight was arguably Ireland’s brightest player in terms of going forward, heading wide just after two minutes before setting up Troy Parrott for the best chance of the first half.
Knight’s deep cross from the right found the Ireland striker completely unmarked at the back post, but Parrott could only head wide as he tried to force the shot back across goal.
Visiting goalkeeper Kelleher was also called into action early on, making smart stops from Ruslan Malinovskyi and Vitaly Mykolenko, though the deadlock was broken at the other end.
Collins pinched the ball near the centre circle in the Ukraine half and channelled his inner Diego Maradona with a superb solo goal, his first at international level.
Knight came close to a second goal for Ireland in the first half as his low effort was well saved, but the visitors took a deserved lead into the half-time interval – which was lost within seconds of the restart.
A mix-up down Ireland’s left allowed Andriy Yarmolenko plenty of space, and he crossed for Artem Dovbyk for an easy tap-in to send the Ukrainian fans wild.
Ukraine spent the second half on top but Ireland did their best to regain the lead. Parrott had an effort deflected wide while the impressive Knight had a low drive well held.
At the other end, Mykolenko burst into the box after a promising underlap but could only prod Murdyk’s incisive pass wide.
What the managers said…
Republic of Ireland’s Stephen Kenny: “Nathan has established himself, he’s caught the imagination. The four games he’s played, he’s been really exceptional in all four games. His decision-making for one so young is excellent and obviously he’s got a lot of very good attributes and you feel that he’s improving all the time. It was a special goal to score away from home, a very special goal and he deserves huge credit for that.
“Today was a good platform to go and play and we played well – but I want us to be even better than that, I want us to improve again. I think we’re capable of even getting better and the capacity there for improvement is high. I think we can even get better. I can’t fault the players, they were really excellent. Their attitude was brilliant and I can’t really fault the players, they were tremendous.”
Ukraine’s Oleksandr Petrakov: “Of course I was really upset because a central defender scored the goal. I never give my opinion after the game, I have to sleep on it, think about it and the next day, I will tell my team what I think about it.”
Ukraine will face Scotland on September 21 and Republic of Ireland will face travel to Scotland on September 24.