Football/Soccer

Josh Cullen left frustrated as Republic slip up at home again

Josh Cullen was one of the Republic of Ireland's better players against Azerbaijan on Saturday, though a 1-1 draw left players and supporters frustrated. Picture by PA
Neil Loughran

FOR the second game in a matter of days Josh Cullen was among the best in show in a green jersey – but he couldn’t hide his frustration after the Republic of Ireland suffered another setback in Saturday’s home draw with lowly Azerbaijan.

It took an 87th minute Shane Duffy header, courtesy of a Cullen cross, to spare the blushes of Stephen Kenny’s side as the visitors looked set to claim just an eighth victory across seven World Cup qualifying campaigns stretching back to France 1998.

However, unable to snatch a winner, and having passed up several opportunities earlier in the game, it leaves dreams of reaching Qatar ’22 a near impossibility.

“It’s really frustrating,” said Cullen.

“We started the game well, I think after the disappointment of Wednesday night [against Portugal], we didn’t show any signs of tiredness, we started purpose and created a couple of chances.

“We lost our way a little bit and our frustrations are summed up by their goal just before half-time. We dominated the second half, but yeah, it’s really frustrating not to get two goals and the three points.”

Both Cullen and captain Seamus Coleman stood off Emin Makhmudov as his strike put Azerbaijan ahead just before the break, with the 25-year-old ruing allowing so much space.

“Yeah, I need to get out and block the shot, it’s as simple as that.

“It’s part of the responsibility of a player to recognise when I could have done something better, and for sure I could have done better in preventing that goal and blocking the shot.”

Group A leaders Serbia come to Dublin tomorrow night and, having produced their best performances of the campaign in defeat to the Serbs and Portugal, Cullen is confident Ireland can bounce back.

“We have to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves down.

“We believe in the character and ability we have in the squad. All we can do is keep working hard, believe in ourselves… a little bit more quality in the final third this evening and maybe a little bit more luck with ricochets in the box and we’re here talking about a positive result.

“There is no time for us to be downbeat. It’s a quick turnaround, we have to fully focus on Tuesday night and as players, it’s our job to be confident and we have to be on Tuesday night going in against a good side.”

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Football/Soccer