Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill acknowledged his side’s performance in their 1-1 draw against Georgia on Saturday was as poor as any in their World Cup qualifying campaign.
Shane Duffy scored a fourth-minute header to give Ireland the lead at Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena in Tbilisi, but that was as good as it got for the team’s travelling supporters, who watched as Georgia were allowed to dominate proceedings.
The hosts produced the best piece of football of the evening when Valeri Qazaishvili rounded off a slick passing move with the equaliser after 34 minutes, and O’Neill did not hide from his side’s shortcomings.
“The first half was as poor as we played this campaign,” he told reporters. “We gave possession away too cheaply and allowed them dominate.
“We came here to try and win the game. It was always going to be tough but we had the chances to win it.”
Ireland face group leaders Serbia, who moved two points clear with a 3-0 win over Moldova, in Dublin on Tuesday, and O’Neill recognised the disappointment in Tbilisi had enhanced the importance of that game.
“It will have to be a phenomenal effort to beat Serbia on Tuesday,” he said. “We have to play better, be at our best. We can do it.”
O’Neill went on the defensive in an interview with RTE Sport, and attempted to take the pressure off his players ahead of Tuesday’s game by describing Serbia as “technically better” than Ireland.
When asked about Ireland’s failure to retain possession against Georgia, O’Neill said: “We’ll try and improve, absolutely. We’ve got a couple of days to work with the players.
“I don’t think there’s a quick fix to it. We have to try and do better with the ball. We’ve got one or two very, very decent players who probably didn’t play well tonight.
“We’re going to try and win a game against Serbia, which is the most important thing. We’re going to put heart and soul into the match and try and beat a side who probably – technically – are better than us.”
He added: “Three points are hard to get.”