Was instrumental in making the first Irish goal, delivering the cross that Shane Long touched back to Jeff Hendrick. Richard Keogh: Showed surprising pace to make a couple of vital interceptions. Glen Whelan: Making him the whipping boy for Ireland’s failures – as Eamon Dunphy tends to do – is unfair, but he had an undistinguished evening, contributing little going forward and looking slightly off the pace defensively. Robbie Brady: Delivered some excellent balls from set-pieces, which troubled the Serbian defence.
Achieved nothing constructive – but, to be fair, defended stoutly. Stephen Ward: Defended extremely well on more than one occasion in the first half. Looked good at times and broke forward well once or twice, but didn’t do anything to set the game alight. Jonathan Walters: Put in a good shift, but never really got going in attack.
At the other end, Ireland had a goal by Jon Walters disallowed for offside and, while the margin might have been tight, the decision was probably correct. It was, in the end, a scrappy and barely deserved draw.
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Instead Stephen Quinn was pressed into service – replacing Stephen Ward, with Robbie Brady dropping in to left-back – but he added little in terms of guile and Serbia continued to dominate.
That they would take the lead seemed inevitable, though there was no justice about the way it happened.
After the final whistle, Martin O’Neill insisted that it was a great result, to get a draw in Serbia.
If he is right, then they are probably the team to beat.
Constantly pulled-up by the referee for absolutely nothing. Stephen Quinn: Did reasonably well when he came on, in a tidy sort of way, but was never going to cut the opposition open 7.
Showed on couple of occasions just how dangerous he could be if he was given any kind of service – but generally was forced to chase lost causes. James Mc Clean: Played with his usual gusto – but he was too easily dispossessed on a couple of occasions and never really hurt the opposition. Daryl Murphy: You can only mark someone on the time they were on the pitch and Murphy delivered superbly with a fine header. Martin O’Neill: Did he really tell Darren Randolph to pump the ball forward every time?
But with Wales and Austria – the latter winning 2-1 on a tricky assignment away to Georgia – claiming three points, the group has the appearance of one that will be closely contested between four teams. Certainly, it will require far better performances than we delivered tonight to make it through.
Ireland’s football was turgid and lacking in imagination or finesse.
His booking was entirely unjustified – and was probably why he was substituted. Jeff Hendrick: Took his goal well and did some excellent defensive work. Bottled up by the Serbs – and got no change from the referee.