Bulgaria 1 Ireland 1.
Stephen Kenny’s reign as Republic of Ireland senior manager has started with a familiar result for Irish football fans. Here are our Ireland player ratings from the game against Bulgaria.
Ireland rescue draw
Bozhidar Kraev looked to have got the only goal of the Uefa Nations League tie in Sofia. However, Shane Duffy’s late equaliser gave Ireland a point and a familiar result.
Kenny’s side were the better team on the night, but there is much room for improvement over the coming months.
Here is how we rated the Ireland players.
Shane Duffy heads home a 93rd minute equaliser to earn Ireland a draw in Bulgaria
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) September 3, 2020
Ireland player ratings
Darren Randolph – 6
The West Ham United goalkeeper has been Ireland’s most consistent player over the last few years. And he made several important interventions in the first half, including a telling clearance at the edge of the box.
Randolph arguably should have been off his goal-line quicker to try to prevent Bulgaria’s goal, but was, once again, one of Ireland’s better players.
Matt Doherty – 5
Kenny selected Doherty at right-back ahead of Seamus Coleman, the team’s captain, and it was the right call.
Doherty’s brilliant form for Wolves over the last two seasons, which earned him a transfer to Tottenham Hotspur, meant the new Ireland coach couldn’t ignore him.
Unfortunately for Kenny and Ireland, Doherty couldn’t replicate his club performances at international level.
This was partly because his teammates couldn’t get him into similar positions to those he found himself in for Wolves.
Doherty made some promising runs but was often overlooked for a pass.
Shane Duffy – 6
Duffy, who joined Celtic on loan from Brighton this week, captained the Ireland team on the night.
The defender looked shaky, particularly in the first half and he switched off for Bulgaria’s goal. Yet, he popped up at the death to rescue a point for Kenny’s team.
Duffy lost the ball in the first minute when carrying it out from the back, and didn’t try to do so again.
The Celtic centre-half looked uncomfortable playing a high line and often dropped 10 yards deeper than the rest of the Ireland backline to ensure he wasn’t caught out by a pass over the top.
However, he proved his worth with his goal at the end. He remains arguably Ireland’s most dangerous player in the opposition penalty area.
John Egan – 6
Earning his ninth cap at the centre of Ireland’s defence, Egan was significantly more comfortable in possession than his central defensive partner Duffy.
The Sheffield United defender got Ireland up the pitch by bringing the ball into midfield.
Egan wasn’t flustered by opposition pressure and looked comfortable playing with a high line.
However, he switched off for Bulgaria’s goal, leaving Kraev to cover space and allowing the forward to slip in and score a soft goal.
Bulgaria lead Ireland as Kraev breaks away to fire through Darren Randolph
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) September 3, 2020
Enda Stevens – 6
Stevens started in a traditional full-back role but was still an attacking threat for Ireland.
One of the best wing-backs in the Premier League, Stevens was another who found it hard to replicate his club performances at international level.
The Dubliner, however, was tidy in possession and created one of Ireland’s better openings with a cross for O’Dowda in the first half.
James McCarthy – 5
McCarthy made an unheralded return to the Ireland team, but he could prove a pivotal player for Stephen Kenny, who rates him highly.
The Crystal Palace midfielder, on his first Ireland start since 2016, was busy in the first half and won the ball back more than any other player.
Faded from the game as the night progressed.
Jeff Hendrick – 5
Hendrick made his first start since March, when he played for Burnley against Tottenham Hotspur. Since then, Hendrick has joined Newcastle United but retained his place in the Ireland team.
Hendrick started well and was busy in midfield, winning the ball back and getting his team up the pitch. A functional performance, but one that faded as the match went on.
Conor Hourihane – 5
The Aston Villa midfielder didn’t offer a lot from open play, but he was a threat with his set-piece deliveries and crosses into the box.
Hourihane hit some tempting crosses into the area for his teammates to attack.
However, when Ireland didn’t have the ball he was largely ineffective and he lost the ball cheaply in the build-up to Bulgaria’s goal.
Callum O’Dowda – 6
O’Dowda was a surprise inclusion, but the Bristol City winger has the skill, speed and quickness of thought to trouble defences.
O’Dowda showed some flashes of promise, he won some free-kicks in dangerous positions and he had a few efforts on goal.
Aaron Connolly – 6
Connolly squandered the best chance of the first half, albeit a chance he created himself. The Brighton forward, who started wide left, won the ball outside the Bulgaria penalty area and ignored Idah and O’Dowda waiting for the ball in the box, going for goal himself. Connolly missed the target and shot wide.
Otherwise, Connolly was a threat to Bulgaria due to his speed and ability to improvise.
He had Ireland’s only shot on target, was comfortable taking the ball in tight areas and looked dangerous when he came into central areas.
Adam Idah – 6
A proud night for the Norwich City forward, who was making his senior international debut.
Idah started brightly and held the ball up well on a number of occasions. A very promising player.
Ireland substitutes player ratings
Robbie Brady – 6
He looked bright when he came on and set-up Duffy’s goal with a wonderful corner-kick.
Callum Robinson & Shane Long – N/A.
Neither were on for long enough or were involved enough, to be rated.
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