Match ends, Republic of Ireland 0, Finland 1.
Republic of Ireland 0-1 Finland: Stephen Kenny’s Dublin opener ends in defeat6 September 2020
Stephen Kenny suffered his first defeat as Republic of Ireland boss as his side fell to a 1-0 Nations League home defeat by Finland.
Substitute Fredrik Jensen netted the 64th-minute winner only 19 seconds after his introduction.
Finland wasted several other good chances although the Republic also spurned second-half opportunities.
Kenny becomes the first Irish manager to lose his opening home game in charge since Mick McCarthy in 1996.
The result leaves the Republic third in Group B4 with just one point from two games.
Having rescued a late draw against Bulgaria, the Republic were unable to carry that momentum into Sunday's encounter as match-winner Jensen displayed the clinical edge lacking from the home side's play.
The Augsburg forward himself won the ball in midfield and found Teemu Pukki, who slipped Robert Taylor in behind the Republic back-line.
Taylor played a perfectly weighted ball across the six-yard area, allowing Jensen to ghost in behind Enda Stevens and poke home at the far post.
The Republic are now five points adrift of pacesetters Wales, who followed Thursday's win over Finland with a 1-0 success at home to Bulgaria earlier on Sunday.
The Republic, on the other hand, are yet to win a Nations League match in six attempts.
Super-sub Jensen punishes hosts
Finland's menace in the final third was evident from early on when Pukki missed the clearest chance of a dull opening period.
Pukki, who scored 10 goals in Euros qualifying, forced a strong save from Darren Randolph having been found in behind the Irish defence by Robert Taylor.
The Norwich City striker was an energetic presence in Finland's attack, dropping deep to receive the ball and link play as well as drifting into space between Republic centre-backs Shane Duffy and John Egan.
Pukki remained dangerous throughout the second half, too, producing another fine stop from Randolph with a rasping volley before whistling a low drive just past the post on the turn.
And while he was ultimately unable to beat Randolph, Jensen made no mistake with his only clear sight of goal, condemning the Republic to a first home defeat in eight games.
Midfield changes fail to produce desired result
Kenny decided to change all three of his midfielders following Thursday's 1-1 draw in Bulgaria.
Jayson Molumby, who captained the Republic Under-21s under Kenny, came in for his senior debut alongside Harry Arter and Robbie Brady with James McCarthy, Jeff Hendrick and Conor Hourihane all dropping to the bench.
It was Arter's first appearance since the Euro qualifier victory away to Gibraltar in March 2019, and his first start since the Nations League defeat by Wales in October 2018.
Those changes failed to inject some much-needed urgency and invention into the Irish midfield, however, with the Finland defence troubled only by Brady's wicked dead-ball deliveries.
For a long time, Arter's speculative effort from distance, which stung the palms of Finland keeper Lukas Hradecky, was the Republic's only shot on target.
In the second half, Aaron Connolly, who was lively in Sofia, fired a left-footed shot into the side-netting after Adam Idah's lay-off just moments before Callum O'Dowda curled his 25-yard effort just wide of Hradecky's right-hand post.
Going behind did briefly spark the Boys in Green into life as substitute Callum Robinson forced a save from Hradecky at his near post after eluding the away side's defence.
Duffy, who headed the injury-time equaliser against Bulgaria, was unable to replicate the feat when he sent Brady's corner over the bar in what was the Republic's last clear opening.
Plenty to ponder for Kenny
Prior to his opening game, Kenny insisted it will take time for the Irish players to sufficiently adapt to his ideas.
On the evidence of the two performances against Bulgaria and Finland, he was right.
The hosts made a concerted effort to speed up their approach play in the second half but lacked a cutting edge inside Finland's penalty area as they once again failed to score from open play.
If Kenny can draw any positives from this, it was that his players were able to unnerve Finland by pressing high up the pitch in the second half, particularly when the visitors tried to play out from the back.
Teething issues were always likely, of course, especially given that the current international window has fallen between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, but there is no question that a home defeat only dents Irish confidence ahead of next month's Euros play-off semi-final away to Slovakia on 8 October.
The stats that matter
- Stephen Kenny is the first Republic of Ireland boss to fail to win either of his first two games in charge since Mick McCarthy in 1996
- The Republic of Ireland have failed to keep a clean sheet in four consecutive competitive games for the first time since June 2015.
- Finland have won each of their last 13 games when keeping a clean sheet
- This was Republic of Ireland's first defeat in eight home games since a 0-1 loss against Wales in October 2018
R. of Ireland
- 22MolumbyBooked at 66mins
- 20ArterBooked at 85mins
- 15O'DowdaSubstituted forRobinsonat 59'minutes
- 19IdahSubstituted forMcGoldrickat 66'minutes
- 17ConnollySubstituted forMcCleanat 77'minutes
- 2O'ShaughnessyBooked at 89mins
- 22HämäläinenSubstituted forUronenat 79'minutes
- 10PukkiSubstituted forKarjalainenat 90+1'minutes
- 20PohjanpaloSubstituted forJensenat 63'minutes
- Fabio Maresca