Xherdan Shaqiri stunner condemns John O’Shea’s Republic of Ireland to defeat

By Sports Desk March 26, 2024

A piece of magic from Xherdan Shaqiri ensured John O’Shea’s reign as interim Republic of Ireland head coach ended in disappointment as Switzerland eased to a 1-0 friendly victory in Dublin.

The Chicago Fire midfielder’s sweet 23rd-minute free-kick proved the difference between the sides, but did not fully reflect the control the visitors exerted on a night when Ireland, ranked 43 places below the Swiss, were unable to build upon Saturday’s creditable draw with Belgium.

If the game did represent the second half of an audition for the vacant manager’s job for O’Shea after a groundswell of popular support – Roberto Di Matteo’s presence at the Aviva Stadium is understood to have been coincidental – it proved somewhat uncomfortable at times before a late flurry raised spirits.

Ireland have now won just one of their last eight games in all competitions – and that against Gibraltar – and while the victory was just a second in nine attempts for Switzerland, they have lost just once.

O’Shea made three changes to the side which drew 0-0 with the Belgians as Gavin Bazunu replaced Caoimhin Kelleher in goal, Mikey Johnston came in for the injured Chiedozie Ogbene and Jason Knight got the nod ahead of Will Smallbone in midfield.

Ireland set out on the front foot with Johnston pushing up alongside Evan Ferguson and Seamus Coleman and Robbie Brady attempting to support from the flanks.

However, it was the Swiss who created the game’s first opening with 10 minutes gone when Dan Ndoye cut inside Coleman from the left and unleashed a shot which was blocked by Nathan Collins and looped up to Silvan Widmer, whose header back across goal as Bazunu opted not to come for the ball was cleared by Andrew Omobamidele.

Debutant Vincent Sierro failed to trouble Bazunu from distance with a dipping 30-yard attempt as the visitors settled, but Coleman only just mistimed his run as he collected Sammie Szmodics’ fine reverse pass to get in behind for the first time, only to be pulled back by an offside flag.

But it was Murat Yakin’s side who took a 23rd-minute lead in some style when, after Dara O’Shea – much to his annoyance – had been penalised for a trip on Zeki Amdouni on the edge of the penalty area, former Stoke and Liverpool player Shaqiri stepped up to curl a superb left-footed free-kick around the defensive wall and beyond Bazunu’s dive.

Switzerland’s slick inter-play allowed them repeatedly to evade Ireland’s press and deny them possession for lengthy periods, in the process isolating frontman Ferguson.

Omobamidele headed straight at keeper Yvon Mvogo after O’Shea had helped Brady’s half-cleared 37th-minute free-kick back across goal, and Johnston headed wide from Knight’s inviting 42nd-minute cross.

However in the meantime, Switzerland skipper Granit Xhaka – winning his 123rd senior cap – had pounced on a scuffed Bazunu clearance and rattled the post from distance with the scrambling keeper wrong-footed to leave head coach O’Shea with food for thought.

Coleman and Knight attempted to inject a greater urgency as the second half got under way, but Switzerland soon eased their way back on top and Bazunu found himself having to deal with a long-range attempt from Michel Aebischer after Amdouni had prospered down the left.

Substitutes Matt Doherty and Adam Idah combined with 24 minutes remaining when the striker sent an overhead kick wide from the defender’s header back, and Ireland started to impose themselves in terms of possession as the game entered its final quarter.

However, they lacked the penetration and the precision – Idah smashed a shot just high and wide at the end of an enterprising 81st-minute run – to make it count as the visitors saw out time in relative comfort.

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