Republic of Ireland 1 Switzerland 1
It was a goal that had not looked like coming in a game they looked like they had lost but David McGoldrick’s header salvaged a point against Switzerland that should act like a shot of adrenaline in their qualification campaign.
As the ball looped, high in the air, a few seconds after Glenn Whelan had smashed a shot against the bar from 25 yards, McGoldrick stood his ground at the far post. Waiting and watching for James McClean’s deflected cross to drop out of the sky, he timed his leap to perfection.
The noise was deafening. Not since Ireland beat Bosnia here almost four years ago has the air vibrated with the sound of euphoria like this. It was only a point, but the importance should not be downplayed. Their automatic qualification hopes remain intact.
“This was an Irish team’s performance and I’m incredibly proud of them,” said McCarthy. “We’ve got a point against a very good side that were better than us for long periods, but we’ve had our chances too. The noise at the end, that was like the good old days.
“The way we play, the way the lads conduct ourselves, I think people appreciate that. You’re going to have to put us down before we give up and that’s a wonderful trait to have.”
McGoldrick has had to wait a long time for this moment, his first Ireland goal coming in his 11th game in international football, but the Sheffield United man’s popularity across the Irish Sea had already soared before this headline stealing intervention.
McGoldrick played the best football of his club career under Mick McCarthy at Ipswich Town. Reunited with Ireland, the McGoldrick has impressed time and time again as a lone striker in emerald green. “I’ve always trusted David McGoldrick, he’s always been a great player for me,” said McCarthy.
He is the type of number nine supporters and managers love in a team not blessed with attacking flair. McGoldrick is chaser of lost causes, a targetman, a player happy to play even when he isolated and abandoned by his midfield, someone who will keep going no matter how little of the ball he gets and how few glimpses of goal he is given.
He deserved this sliver of glory for all the unselfish, unflattering hard graft he has put in before it. Ireland deserved it too. They were out-played by Switzerland, but hung in there when things got tough and, having conceded a late goal when Newcastle United’s Fabian Schar finished off a sublime one-touch passing move, the Irish rallied impressively to rescue what could prove to be the most precious of points.
McCarthy’s men had their moments in the first half. Some nice interplay between Callum Robinson and Jeff Hendrick, saw the latter skip past a challenge. Space opened, James McClean galloped into it, prepared to shoot, but was tackled by Kevin Mbabu as he pulled his leg back.
But Switzerland looked the better team. They began to make Ireland look harassed in defence. In the space of a few seconds, Shane Duffy, Richard Keogh and goalkeeper Darren Randolph had all made goal saving interventions as the visitors began to find their rhythm.
At the other end, a great run from McGoldrick, after toe poking the ball past the final defender, was wasted when his pass was too strong for Robinson at the far post.
Switzerland’s football remained more pleasing on the eye, but they failed to test Randolph. With half an hour left to play, Ireland were not excelling, but they were coping and luck was their friend. When Breel Embolo was presented with the best chance of the night, he fell over as he tried to shoot. It was a shocking miss and when Alan Judge got back to prevent Ricardo Rodriguez scoring a tap in and Seamus Coleman did the same with his head to Remo Freuler,, Switzerland must have wondered if the win was going to slip through their fingers.
Ireland, though, were dropping too deep, and Switzerland sliced through them as Schar applied a crisp finish. The Swiss thought that was it, game won, but McGoldrick had other ideas.