Match ends, Republic of Ireland 0, Greece 2.
Republic of Ireland 0-2 Greece: Euro 2024 hopes ended by defeat in Dublin13 October 2023
The Republic of Ireland's fading hopes of reaching the Euro 2024 finals have been dashed by a deflating 2-0 home defeat by Greece.
First-half goals from Giorgos Giakoumakis and Giorgos Masouras mean the Greeks leapfrog the Netherlands into second place in Group B.
The return of teenage striker Evan Ferguson could not lift Stephen Kenny's men as their dismal campaign continued.
Ireland have now won one and lost five of their six matches so far.
With two games remaining, they are fourth in the five-team group, 15 points behind leaders France, who beat the Netherlands on Friday night to secure qualification, and nine points adrift of the second-placed Greeks.
Kenny had said going into Friday night's match at what was a sparsely-populated Aviva Stadium that his players must keep believing that qualification is possible.
Despite a strong opening 10 minutes when they twice came desperately close to opening the scoring, the home side produced another disappointing performance in front of an unhappy home crowd.
In the early stages, William Smallbone had a low shot saved by Odysseas Vlachodimos before Brighton's Ferguson, back after missing the two September internationals through injury, hit the post.
But Greece soon played their way into the game and got on top.
The opener for Gus Poyet's men was an excellent goal which began with good fortune as Liverpool left-back Kostas Tsimikas bundled his way past Chiedozie Ogbene, the Republic's best player on the night, down the left-hand side.
But once he was past the Luton Town attacker it was quality from there on, with Tsimikas delivering an outstanding, dipping cross which Giakoumakis rose well to meet with a bullet header that flew into the top corner, giving Bazunu no chance.
The second goal arrived a few seconds into first-half stoppage time, coming from a fine Greece counter-attack after Ogbene lost possession in the visitors' half.
Giakoumakis drove forward and found Dimitris Pelkas at the back post, who miscued a shot which fell to Masouras, who got his fifth goal in qualifying with a low finish.
Kenny under pressure as poor campaign continuesRepublic boss Kenny has now won five times in 27 competitive matches
Friday night's defeat will no doubt increase the pressure on Republic boss Kenny, whose current contract with the Football Association of Ireland ends after this campaign is over.
He will most likely remain in charge for the country's final Group B qualification games, against Gibraltar in Faro on Monday night and away to the Netherlands next month, but the governing body may have a decision to make as to who leads the side in the next Nations League programme and the 2026 World Cup qualifiers.
Former Derry City and Dundalk manager Kenny stepped up from his role as Ireland's Under-21 manager to replace the experienced Mick McCarthy as senior team boss in April 2020 and vowed to implement a possession-based style of play as he looked to introduce young players into the squad.
The 51-year-old has stuck rigidly to that passing vision but it has come under criticism from some former internationals as it has failed to deliver results, with the defeat by Greece meaning the Republic have won just five of 27 competitive matches under the Dubliner.
Their only victory in this qualifying campaign was against lowly Gibraltar which came after they opened with a 1-0 home defeat by France in March before a 2-1 loss in Greece in June.
After beating Gibraltar, they lost both outings in a tough double-header in September, going down 2-0 in Paris before getting beaten 2-1 by the Dutch in Dublin.
Ferguson and Republic fade after strong startEvan Ferguson was making his seventh appearance for the Republic
The Republic twice came desperately close to opening the scoring during what was a strong and high-paced start to the game in front of a 41,239-crowd at the Aviva.
Ogbene made a driving run inside from the right flank in the fourth minute and played a clever ball inside to Smallbone who swept a low shot towards goal that produced a fine diving save from visiting goalkeeper Vlachodimos
The rebound fell to debutant full-back Liam Scales but the Celtic man was unable to control his left-foot strike and it flew well over the crossbar.
Just a minute later, Brighton teenager Ferguson found space just outside the box and shifted the ball on to his left foot but the 18-year-old striker's curler grazed the outside of the far post.
Greece, who won the reverse fixture 2-1 in Athens in June, gradually played their way into the game and began to find their rhythm with a series of passing moves, largely dictated by the influential Petros Mantalos.
He had a shot blocked by Josh Cullen after a neat one-two with Lazaros Rota on 10 minutes and, seven minutes later, Greek captain Tasos Bakasetas tried his luck with a long-range curling shot which home keeper Bazunu did well to stop.
Going in 2-0 at the break was demoralising for the home side and they failed to get going in the second-half until a late rally that included Matt Doherty having a back-post header well saved and substitute striker Callum Robinson having a low shot from distance flash just wide.
Republic of Ireland
- 22CollinsSubstituted forManningat 45'minutes
- 20OgbeneSubstituted forIdahat 86'minutes
- 8BrowneSubstituted forJohnstonat 70'minutes
- 11SmallboneBooked at 10minsSubstituted forRobinsonat 70'minutes
- 11BakasetasSubstituted forSiopisat 88'minutes
- 6KourbelisSubstituted forBouchalakisat 64'minutesBooked at 75mins
- 7MasourasSubstituted forKoulierakisat 88'minutes
- 19GiakoumakisSubstituted forIoannidisat 70'minutes
- 10PelkasBooked at 56minsSubstituted forChatzigiovanisat 64'minutes
- Glenn Nyberg
Second Half ends, Republic of Ireland 0, Greece 2.
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