The Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualifying hopes were dealt a major 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.
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 in what, on paper, looked to be their biggest chance to pick up a first win under Stephen Kenny.
Instead 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 stretches to 10.
After a strong start to the Serbia game that saw them take the lead after 18 minutes, the Republic took longer to settle on a blustery Dublin evening 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.
While that move failed to produce the opening goal, it did signal a sustained period of possession for the Irish without them ever really fashioning a clear-cut chance in behind the away side’s defence.
Robbie Brady’s half-time introduction for Matt Doherty, who picked up an injury, helped change that 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 flashed a shot over from a tight angle on a night when the Republic managed just three shots on target.
Bazunu impresses on debut
Kenny’s line-up showed three changes from Wednesday’s defeat in Belgrade with Derby County skipper Jason Knight drafted into midfield and James Collins was 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 Gavin 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 Gerson Rodrigues’ audacious lob from distance, succeeding where Travers had failed against Serbia with the Bournemouth keeper having been chipped by Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Bazunu also did well to keep out Vincent Thill in the second half after the 21-year-old had barged his way through a series of half-hearted Irish tackles.
And while he thwarted Rodrigues in the first half, there was nothing Bazunu could do nothing about the Dynamo Kiev man’s rasping right-footed drive that flew into the bottom corner to turn a frustrating night for the Republic into a disastrous one, and a result that will likely prompt a period of 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 high and wide to the left. 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.