Georgia 1-1 Republic of Ireland

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Valeri Qazaishvili equalised for Georgia after the Republic sat back following Shane Duffy’s early goal

The Republic of Ireland remain unbeaten in 2018 World Cup qualifying after being held to a draw by a superior Georgia in Tbilisi.

Shane Duffy took advantage of an error by keeper Giorgi Makaridze to head the visitors in front in the fourth minute.

But the Republic sat back and the hosts equalised before the break through a well-worked goal by Valeri Qazaishvili.

Martin O’Neill’s side stay second in Group D but are now two points behind leaders Serbia, who beat Moldova 3-0.

James McClean and Aiden McGeady missed chances late on but victory would have flattered a lacklustre Irish side, who face Serbia at home on Tuesday.

Wales and Austria have the chance to close the gap on the Republic to two points when they meet at 19:45 BST.

Score early, sit back

The first half followed a familiar pattern for the Republic of Ireland – this was the third game of the qualifying campaign in which they have scored inside the opening five minutes, only to sit back and concede before scraping a result.

Daryl Murphy’s late goal salvaged a draw against Serbia, McClean’s two quick strikes eventually saw off Moldova, and Georgia could not force a winner here – but another lethargic showing will do little to inspire confidence for the three remaining games.

Duffy’s opener promised much more. Cyrus Christie clipped a free-kick into the area and the Brighton centre-back rose well to beat Makaridze, who had ill advisedly surged off his line to try to punch clear.

However, having discovered the hosts’ frailty, the Republic retreated, sitting so deep they were not even able to win free-kicks high enough up the pitch to test the shaky keeper again.

This was epitomised shortly after Georgia’s equaliser when lone striker Shane Long tried to bring a long pass under control, only to lose possession while isolated 50 yards away from his nearest team-mate.

The standard improved in the second half but Long remained a frustrated and largely incidental figure as the Irish failed to beat Georgia for the first time in nine meetings.

More to follow.

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