A scrappy Seamus Coleman goal earned the Republic of Ireland a 1-0 win over Georgia on Thursday to continue their positive start in World Cup qualifying despite an unimpressive performance and worrying late injury to Robbie Brady.
Martin O’Neill’s men flattered to deceive for much of the match in Dublin against a side they were firm favourites to beat, but only Coleman’s second-half tap-in spared their blushes and added to the point claimed in Serbia last time out in Group D.
The visitors were unlucky not to go into the break ahead, as the frame of the goal denied both Levan Mchedlidze and Guram Kashia in quick succession late in the first period.
Georgia were made to rue their fate early in the second half, as Coleman’s drive and determination allowed him to score a fortuitous opener from close range.
The away side only looked more frail at the back as the second half progressed and Ireland ultimately had little difficulty holding on to victory, though a late head injury to Brady that resulted in him being taken off on a stretcher while needing oxygen saw the contest end on a sour note.
Georgia struggled to cope with Ireland’s intensity during the early exchanges, with the hosts getting the ball forward and producing some strong challenges.
But Georgia soon adapted to Ireland’s full-blooded start and should have taken the lead 17 minutes in, as Otar Kakabadze’s delivery deflected into the centre of the box and Valeri Kazaishvili sliced a left-footed effort agonisingly wide on the spin.
The visitors went even closer eight minutes before the break.
Mchedlidze met Tornike Okriashvili’s fine cross with a glancing header that rattled the crossbar, before Kashia’s own header from the rebound came back off the right-hand post.
The lively Mchedlidze posed a threat again shortly after, but this time Darren Randolph was equal to his stinging left-foot drive.
Ireland’s start to the second half produced a marked improvement, however, and they had a goal to show for it 10 minutes in.
Coleman’s relentless charge up the right flank ended with the full-back bursting into the area, profiting from kind ricochets off two defenders and then prodding over the line from a yard out.
Good play down the right again in the 75th minute saw the Irish craft another decent chance, as Jonathan Walters whipped a good cross into the danger zone and Brady nodded just wide, enduring a nasty clash of heads with Solomon Kverkvelia in the process that resulted in his forced withdrawal.
And they almost added a second in stoppage time as James McClean headed Walter’s cross against the crossbar, but it did not matter in the end as Ireland held on.