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Evan Ferguson catches the eye as he leads the Ireland line
Evan Ferguson became Ireland’s youngest goalscorer in almost 25 years on his first senior start as Stephen Kenny’s year began with a win against Latvia courtesy of Chiedozie Ogbene’s second-half strike.
Here is how the Boys in Green fared in their first outing of the year, ahead of Monday’s opening Euro 2024 qualifier against France:
Caoimhín Kelleher 5
On his first start in over two months, Kelleher was caught off guard as Uldrikis’ thunderbolt hit the top corner from 30 yards. Couldn’t keep out Latvia’s second via Collins’ deflection either and he’ll be disappointed with both.
Andrew Omobamidele 6
Returned to make his first Irish appearance in 16 months but Ireland needed a leader after letting the visitors back into the contest and the Norwich defender made way for Egan on 63 minutes.
Nathan Collins 6
Handled experienced Latvian forward Gutkovskis well and cleared on several occasions with strong headers on his tenth successive start. Made a crucial late clearance to secure the win.
Dara O’Shea 6
Comfortable with the ball at his feet on the left of the back three but should have taken charge clearing before Latvia’s second, as he and O’Dowda competed for the same ball.
Matt Doherty 6
Captained his country for the first time and played a role in the build-up for Ireland's first two goals. Was a threat at right wing-back but did cough up possession on a few occasions, namely in the lead up to Latvia’s first.
Alan Browne 6
The Corkman made a couple of forays forward on his 12th successive appearance but didn’t make the impact Smallbone and Molumby made.
Will Smallbone 8
Produced a superb cross on his Irish debut to assist O’Dowda early on. Linked up well with Doherty on the right and comfortable on set-pieces. Was awarded Man of the Match after a fine senior debut.
Jayson Molumby 7
His tackle led to Ireland’s first and the West Brom man provided Ireland with good energy from central midfield. Linked the play well too but will be disappointed not to have closed Zjuzins down sooner.
Callum O’Dowda 7
Netted his first Ireland goal with a fine header 5 minutes into his 27th cap, and proved a threat from left-wing back before departing for McClean with 15 minutes left.
Michael Obafemi 6
Smartly knocked it back across goal to assist Ferguson’s goal, but failed to make much of an impact otherwise. A few nice touches without setting the world alight. Replaced by Johnson just after the hour mark.
Evan Ferguson 7
A memorable night for the 18-year-old on his first senior start. His poacher's finish on 17 minutes made him Ireland’s youngest goalscorer since Robbie Keane in 1998. Had a quieter second half before being replaced by Parrott to a standing ovation.
Mikey Johnson came on for his debut and made an instant impact, hitting the post after a strong run forward. Chiedozie Ogbene was first to the rebound to net, while Johnson went close to a fine solo goal late on. John Egan’s experience helped Ireland see out the win as Troy Parrott, James McClean and Jeff Hendrick were also involved late on.