Republic of Ireland secured top spot in UEFA European Championships qualifying Group D thanks to a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Georgia.
Conor Hourihane scored the only goal of the game, a sublime free-kick just past the half-hour as Mick McCarthy’s side secured six points from the opening two matches.
In front of 40,317 at the Aviva Stadium, Ireland started the game with plenty of attacking intent, with a number of chances created in the opening stages of the game.
With just eight minutes on the clock, Jeff Hendrick found space on the edge of the area and he was able to slide the ball into Seamus Coleman, but his cross was over the head of Robbie Brady at the back-post.
Two minutes later, Ireland should have took the lead. A brilliant Hendrick tackle saw Hourihane latch onto the loose ball and after he carried the ball the edge of the area, he saw his low effort palmed away.
Ireland continued to pressure the Georgian goal and finally got the goal their play deserved just past the half-hour. Man of the Match David McGoldrick was taken down 25 yards from goal and Hourihane stepped up to curl the ball around the wall and past keeper Giorgi Loria.
The away side almost went into the break level but just like in the previous game against Gibraltar, Darren Randolph pulled off a crucial save. Two minutes into first-half stoppage time, Valerian Gvila was able to collect a knock-down 10 yards out and somehow, his powerful effort was palmed away by the impressive Randolph.
Hendrick had a goal ruled out for offside early in the second-half and Enda Stevens could have sealed the points in the 68th minute. Stevens was able to get on the end of his own blocked cross inside the area but he pulled his shot wide.
Two minutes later, McGoldrick almost got the goal his fantastic play deserved. James McClean’s long-ball beat the Georgian defence and the Sheffield United striker ran in behind but after rounding the keeper, he couldn’t direct his effort on target.
Ireland defended stoutly in the final stages as Georgia were reduced to long-range efforts. With one of the long range efforts, Jaba Kankava let one fly from 25 yards and saw his curling effort hit the post and behind for a goal-kick.
It was the closest Georgia were to come to an equaliser as Ireland secured an important three points in their bid to qualify for UEFA EURO 2020.
Republic of Ireland: Randolph (GK), Enda Stevens, Shane Duffy, Richard Keogh, Seamus Coleman (C), Glenn Whelan, Conor Hourihane, Jeff Hendrick, Robbie Brady (Aidan O’Brien 73), David McGoldrick (Matt Doherty 81), James McClean.
Georgia: Giorgi Loria (GK), Otar Kakabadze (Tornike Okriashvili 85), Davit Khocholava (Levan Kharabadze 85), Guram Kashia, Solomon Kverkvelia, Nika Kvekveskiri, Jaba Kankava (C), Otar Kiteishvili, Giorgi Kvilitaia, Vato Arveladze (Valeri Qazaishvili 73), Valerian Gvilia.