The Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualifying hopes were dealt a massive blow as they slumped to a disastrous 1-0 home defeat by Luxembourg.
Gerson Rodrigues struck a brilliant 85th-minute winner from distance for the visitors.
James Collins missed the Republic’s clearest chance after 18 minutes with Alan Browne heading wide on 54.
The result leaves the Republic bottom of Group A and already on the back foot without a point from two games.
The Irish cause was not helped by Serbia, who recovered from going 2-0 down to salvage a 2-2 draw against group favourites Portugal.
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Having lost to Serbia, there was pressure on the Republic to pick up three points at home against a side ranked 56 places lower than them.
The game also looked a glorious chance for Stephen Kenny to earn his first win in his 10th game as Republic manager against a team who had only ever won three away World Cup or European Championship qualifiers.
While it was Luxembourg’s first qualifying win away from home since September 2008, it is the first time the Republic have started a World Cup qualifying campaign with two straight defeats since their bid to reach the finals in Mexico in 1970.
It turned out to be one of the worst defeats in the Republic’s football history as the manager’s run of games without a win since his appointment last year continued.
Kenny would have hoped to use this game to ignite the Republic’s bid to reach a first World Cup since 2002, but the manner of the result will only heap pressure on the 49-year-old Dubliner, who has failed to breathe new life into the squad after replacing Mick McCarthy last April.
After a strong start to the Serbia game that saw them take the lead after 18 minutes, the Republic took longer to settle in Dublin as Luxembourg demonstrated their counter-attacking prowess, mainly through the impressive Vincent Thill, who tested Gavin Bazunu early on with a left-footed strike after cutting in from the right flank.
The Republic should have taken the lead in the 18th minute at the end of a move that bore similarities to the attacking sequence that created the opener in Belgrade on Wednesday.
Enda Stevens found Callum Robinson on the left, who burst past Marvin Martins and crossed for James Collins, who directed his close-range effort straight at Luxembourgian keeper Anthony Moris.
The Republic largely failed to fashion openings in behind the Luxembourg defence until Robbie Brady’s half-time introduction as the Burnley winger raced in behind down the left within a minute of the restart before failing to pick out Collins.
Brady then delivered a pinpoint free-kick for Alan Browne, who failed to keep his header on target and Collins nearly atoned for his earlier miss when his overhead kick flashed narrowly wide after a Brady cross from the right.
Robinson also blazed a shot over from a tight angle on a night when the Republic managed just three shots on target and, outside of Collins’ chance, never really looked like scoring.
Bazunu impresses on debut
Kenny’s line-up showed three changes from Wednesday’s defeat in Belgrade with Derby County midfielder Jason Knight drafted in and Collins rewarded for his goalscoring cameo against Serbia with a spot up front in place of the injured Aaron Connolly.
However, the Republic manager’s biggest selection call undoubtedly was handing a debut to teenage goalkeeper Bazunu – who was four months old when the Irish last played in the World Cup in 2002 – with Mark Travers dropping out.
Kenny praised the Rochdale stopper’s distribution skills in his pre-match comments and Bazunu lived up to the billing with the former Shamrock Rovers man spraying passes left and right – his chip out to Matt Doherty launched the move that culminated in Collins’ chance – while displaying the confidence to belt out instructions to his defenders.
The young Dubliner answered the biggest question asked by the visitors in the first half when he hastily shuffled back to his line to keep out Rodrigues’ audacious lob from distance, succeeding where Travers had failed against Serbia with the Bournemouth keeper having been chipped by Aleksandar Mitrovic.
And while he thwarted Rodrigues in the first half, there was nothing Bazunu could do about the Dynamo Kiev man’s rasping right-footed drive that flew into the bottom corner.
The late goal turned a frustrating night for the Republic into a disastrous one and delivered a result that represents the nadir of the Kenny era and one that will prompt a period of intense soul-searching within the deflated Irish camp.
The Republic close out the international window in the Hungarian city of Debrecen on Tuesday against World Cup hosts Qatar in a friendly (19:30 BST).
R. of Ireland
- 5ClarkSubstituted forMcCleanat 61′minutes
- 7DohertySubstituted forBradyat 45′minutes
- 17CullenBooked at 80minsSubstituted forMolumbyat 88′minutes
- 3StevensBooked at 53mins
- 9CollinsSubstituted forParrottat 88′minutes
- 12RobinsonSubstituted forLongat 73′minutes
- 22Martins da Graça
- 18JansBooked at 58mins
- 8Martins Pereira
- 11ThillSubstituted forDevilleat 79′minutes
- 15ThillBooked at 13mins
- 16Barreiro Martins
- 9SinaniBooked at 53minsSubstituted forGersonat 90+2′minutes
Match ends, Republic of Ireland 0, Luxembourg 1.
Second Half ends, Republic of Ireland 0, Luxembourg 1.
Attempt saved. Shane Long (Republic of Ireland) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom right corner.
Substitution, Luxembourg. Lars Gerson replaces Danel Sinani.
Offside, Republic of Ireland. Enda Stevens tries a through ball, but Troy Parrott is caught offside.
Attempt missed. Jayson Molumby (Republic of Ireland) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses the top left corner. Assisted by Séamus Coleman with a cross.
Substitution, Republic of Ireland. Troy Parrott replaces James Collins.
Substitution, Republic of Ireland. Jayson Molumby replaces Josh Cullen.
Foul by James Collins (Republic of Ireland).
Anthony Moris (Luxembourg) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Republic of Ireland. Conceded by Gerson Rodrigues.
Goal! Republic of Ireland 0, Luxembourg 1. Gerson Rodrigues (Luxembourg) right footed shot from outside the box to the bottom left corner.
Foul by Shane Long (Republic of Ireland).
Maxime Chanot (Luxembourg) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Hand ball by Shane Long (Republic of Ireland).
Séamus Coleman (Republic of Ireland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Maurice Deville (Luxembourg).
Josh Cullen (Republic of Ireland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Christopher Martins Pereira (Luxembourg).
Corner, Luxembourg. Conceded by Jason Knight.