Callum Robinson’s first international goal in a year saved the Republic of Ireland from chaos as they finished 2022 with a narrow win in Malta.
Robinson’s 55th-minute strike sealed a 1-0 win on a night that saw Ireland suffer yet another long-overdue disappointment, this time with a side 119 places below them in the FIFA rankings, leaving manager Stephen Kenny with more questions than answers going forward. for Euro 2024 qualification.
That the opportunity was given to the director is a mistake rather than a smart one – although his finishing was appropriate – perhaps it was worth it if Kenny’s men for the second time in four days tried to break down a team that wants to stay deep and deny them a place. in the last third.
A 1-0 win was the minimum they needed to qualify for their opening game against hosts France in March, but while it was something Group B champions Greece had failed to do in Malta three days earlier, it would not have boosted confidence. about that campaign.
After enduring a disappointing opening 45 minutes against Norway on Thursday evening, Ireland went on to score a goal at the Ta’ Qali National Stadium as Alan Browne cut open the home defense with a through ball to Chiedozie Ogbene, whose cross was blocked by Robinson. the fifth minute test deviated significantly.
However, Ireland had a chance to escape when the defenders went in behind Seamus Coleman and the Oxford striker Jodi Jones found himself in the air, but he could not beat Caoimhin Kelleher with his 12th drive.
Malta, who have been drawn in the same Euro 2024 group as England and Italy, worked hard to frustrate the visitors, but Nathan Collins picked out Robinson in the 23rd minute and it took Enrico Pepe to stop Ogbene from getting in. The Cardiff-striker’s cross.
Midfielder Jamie McGrath made a long save with a cross from the post and crossbar and Matt Doherty just missed Coleman’s cross over the top, but the Maltese defense held firm.
Naturally, Browne poked Doherty’s cross across goal as McGrath crossed from the left as the break approached, but there was no reason to celebrate as the whistle blew.
Teddy Teuma drilled a 48th-minute free-kick straight at the defensive wall after Jones was tripped by Collins, but McGrath had no success at the other end when Josh Cullen was brought down by Alexander Satariano on the edge of the box.
It was a miscue that led to Robinson making a run at Malta captain Matthew Guillaumier who was badly beaten at the back by rounder Henry Bonello before slotting the ball into an empty net.
Browne forced Bonello into a 61st-minute save with a firm header from McGrath’s free-kick, but Kelleher made a diving save to deny substitute Steven Pisani Joseph Mbong’s clearance into the opposition area.
Bristol City midfielder Mark Sykes made his debut as a late substitute with Ireland pushing for a second, and was unfortunate to miss out when substitute Callum O’Dowda attempted a late save from the post with Bonello helpless.