Republic of Ireland dominate Iceland but fall to home defeat

Damian Spellman
The Independent
Hordur Magnusson's first-half free-kick proved to be enough for the Icemen: Getty
Hordur Magnusson's first-half free-kick proved to be enough for the Icemen: Getty

Hordur Magnusson's first-half free-kick was enough to hand Iceland a friendly victory over the Republic of Ireland in Dublin.

The Bristol City defender curled home a 21st-minute free-kick to secure a 1-0 win as a much-changed Ireland side spluttered through the first half before belatedly finding a rhythm.

However, they were unable to make the pressure tell as they slipped to a first defeat at the Aviva Stadium for three years.

John Egan and Conor Hourihane were handed senior debuts for the Republic of Ireland as manager Martin O'Neill made wholesale changes for the friendly clash with Iceland.

Brentford defender Egan and Aston Villa midfielder Hourihane were included as Robbie Brady returned from suspension to captain a team in which only Jeff Hendrick and James McClean survived from Friday's night's 0-0 World Cup qualifier draw with Wales.

Iceland made seven changes from the Kosovo win (Getty)
Iceland made seven changes from the Kosovo win (Getty)

Iceland boss Heimir Hallgrimsson also used the depth of his squad, making seven changes from Friday night's 2-1 win in Kosovo with Swansea's Gylfi Sigurdsson one of those to make way.

Ireland lined up with winger McClean playing alongside striker Kevin Doyle with Aiden McGeady and Jonathan Hayes, making his first start for the Republic, providing the width. Egan's evening started in painful fashion when he was caught by a flying elbow and had to leave the pitch to have his head bandaged, but he was quickly back in action.

Neither side was able to exert any real control in a lively start to the game as they traded possession cheaply at break-neck speed with the only threat coming from Aron Gunnarsson's long throw. Such was the lack of action on the pitch that spectators entertained themselves by performing a Mexican Wave and Iceland's famous Thunderclap.

Robbie Brady failed to sparkle in a green shirt (Getty)
Robbie Brady failed to sparkle in a green shirt (Getty)

Egan found himself engaged in a physical battle with Kjartan Finnbogason, and his 20th-minute foul on the striker cost him a booking, although that was not the end of it. Bristol City defender Hordur Magnusson stepped up to curl the resulting free-kick over the wall and inside the post with keeper Keiren Westwood helpless to prevent the ball from nestling in the bottom corner.

Ireland belatedly found some momentum as they attempted to respond with winger Aiden McGeady trying hard to give them an outlet down the right.

But it was the visitors who continued to enjoyed the greater success, although midfielder Aron Sigurdarson failed to trouble Westwood with a wayward effort from distance 14 minutes before the break. However, Finnbogason went significantly closer with a skidding effort from 20 yards two minutes later after Olafur Skulason had combined with Sigurdarson down the left.

Neither side controlled the early stages (Getty)
Neither side controlled the early stages (Getty)

The Republic threatened for the first time in the game when Doyle got his head to McClean's swinging 36th-minute cross, but could only glance his effort wide of the far post. Even Brady, who rose to international prominence at the Euro 2016 finals, was having an off night as he uncharacteristically overhit a series of crosses from promising positions with Ireland misfiring.

O'Neill resisted the temptation to make further changes at the break as he allowed his players a chance to redeem themselves, although Westwood had to be on his toes to field a 47th-minute free-kick from Magnusson before any further damage could be done. McClean and McGeady both sent early crosses into the Iceland penalty area with the Republic trying to take a more progressive approach, but neither picked out a green shirt.

But it was Hayes who caused panic in the visitors' box with 49 minutes gone when he sent in a left-wing cross which Magnusson's bundled uncomfortably behind with his chest, although the home side were unable to create anything from the resulting corner. The game was being played almost exclusively in the visitors' half, although Gunnarsson sent a dipping 55th-minute volley over Westwood's crossbar at the end of a rare counter-attack.

Martin O'Neill's men dominated but could not score (Getty)
Martin O'Neill's men dominated but could not score (Getty)

Nevertheless, Iceland remained well organised to largely keep their hosts at distance and limit their opportunities to claw back the deficit. Substitute Holmar Eyjolfsson made an important block to deny Doyle after Hendrick had headed back Hayes' 61st-minute cross, but O'Neill made his move soon afterwards, sending on two more debutants, Andy Boyle and Daryl Horgan, as well as Stephen Gleeson and Eunan O'Kane.

Shane Long and Callum O'Dowda were thrown into the mix as McClean and McGeady made way soon afterwards with Ireland pressing for an equaliser. The home side went close with 17 minutes remaining when Horgan picked up possession wide on the left and sent over a cross which eluded keeper Ogmudur Kristinsson, but did not fall for a green shirt.

O'Dowda was quickly into his stride, slipping past Eyjolfsson before unleashing a 76th-minute shot which cannoned off defender Sverrir Ingason and flew out for a corner.

Ireland finished in the ascendancy, but were only able to muster a series of half-chances which were easily snuffed out by the visitors as they managed to hang on with little difficulty.


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