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Bulgaria 1-1 Republic of Ireland: Duffy salvages late draw in Kenny's first match

about 2 months ago
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Shane Duffy's stoppage-time header rescued a point for the Republic of Ireland against Bulgaria in Stephen Kenny's first match in charge.

Stephen Kenny's first game in charge of the Republic of Ireland ended in dramatic fashion as Shane Duffy salvaged a 1-1 draw against Bulgaria in the Nations League.

Having replaced Mick McCarthy, former Dundalk boss Kenny insisted his side would set out to implement a new style in Sofia in their opening Nations League Group B4 match, though Bozhidar Kraev's effort looked set to prove decisive.

Kraev's goal came shortly after Ireland had registered their first shot on target through Aaron Connolly in the 52nd minute.

Yet some late pressure finally told in the third minute of added time – Duffy, wearing the captain's armband with Seamus Coleman on the bench, powering in an excellent header from Robbie Brady's corner to snatch a point.

Connolly could have put Ireland ahead after 14 minutes, drilling wide from a tight angle after Bulgaria had played themselves into trouble.

Darren Randolph was left in no man's land at the other end just before the half-hour mark, but Todor Nedelev let Ireland off the hook.

Connolly drew a save from Georgi Georgiev as Ireland started the second half brightly, but Bulgaria had the opener four minutes later – Kraev calmly slotting home after latching onto Nedelev's excellent throughball.

With Ireland's hopes fading, Kraev's goal seemed likely to be enough, but there was one final twist.

An outswinging corner from substitute Brady found Duffy, who planted a firm header into the ground and beyond Georgiev to ensure Kenny avoided defeat in his first match.

What does it mean? Kenny has plenty to do
Kenny is adamant he will stand by his principles as he looks to transform Ireland's fortunes, but despite Duffy’s equaliser, he has plenty to work on.

Ireland's attackers looked relatively sharp but failed to test Georgiev enough, ultimately relying on a set-piece routine to get them out of trouble, while the defence has now kept just one clean sheet in the last seven games.

Duffy leads by example
It has been a fine week for Duffy, with the centre-back having completed a loan move to Celtic – the club he supported as a boy.

And, having been named Ireland captain in Coleman's absence, he came up with the goods for his new manager.

Connolly shows his inexperience
Gifted a golden opportunity in the early stages, Connolly should have done better with his effort. He had two team-mates in support, yet elected not to use either of them, and drilled his strike well wide.

What's next?
Ireland are in action against Finland on Sunday, while Wales are up next for Bulgaria.

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