Kenny's men do enough to stay up

By Stephen Leonard

STEPHEN Kenny's Republic of Ireland did just enough to avoid relegation from tier B of the Nations League after they battled out a scoreless draw with Bulgaria at the Aviva Stadium tonight.

Their efforts, however, were not enough to prevent them dropping to third seeds for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers- a disappointing outcome especially given that the results they needed from other games to help ensure such an occurrence had actually materialised.

Stephen Kenny Wem

Stephen Kenny

But what was missing was a much sought after victory for Kenny's boys, who again had their chances to pinch the spoils tonight, not least through Robbie Brady's strike that cannoned off the crossbar midway through the second half.

Kenny has had to cope with no shortage of curved balls thrown at him throughout this campaign.

The continuous depletion of his first choice squad for a variety of reasons, most often Covid related, has not afforded the Tallaght man a decent swing at his new job.

Still he will be disappointed at the worrying lack of goals,  notwithstanding the openings his teams have managed to create.

Tonight marked a seventh straight game in which Ireland have drawn a blank and it was to prove costly in terms of their seeding for the World Cup qualifiers.

Bulgaria, desperate for a victory to avoid the drop, were dangerous at times with Aleksandar Tsvetkov and Dimitar Illiev asking questions of the Ireland rearguard in the second period.

While Ireland perhaps should have been ahead at the break they could just as easily have been trailing.

James Collins will be disappointed he failed to open the homeside's account late in the half after he headed over from close range following some superb play by Daryl Horgan.

Ronan Curtis saw his deflected delivery travel just wide of the mark before he later barely failed to make a connection with Brady's free kick.

The Ireland defence was caught out on a couple of occasions, most notably when Illiev's delivery over the top put Galin Ivanov in, but his touch was poor and the danger was cleared.

There were chances at both ends after the recess and while Ireland were again unable to convert any, they will take comfort in having hung on to their Nations League B status.

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