Martin O’Neill: ‘We deserved a point, without question’

By Ger McCarthy

Martin O’Neill was in belligerent mood immediately after gaining a point in the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup 2018 qualifying 2-2 draw away to Serbia in Belgrade.

“Eventually, yes, we were happy to come away with a point from here tonight,” O’Neill admitted.

“We took a very early lead in the game but you would expect them to have a lot of possession, being the home side. The pitch amazingly became very, very boggy rather quickly but we knew they were going to come into the game in the second half and did so.

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at the Rajko Mitic Stadium. Photo: Nick Potts/PA
Ireland manager Martin O'Neill during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at the Rajko Mitic Stadium. Photo: Nick Potts/PA

“We have roared back after conceding the penalty, had a goal disallowed and Shane Long has had a great chance to equalise before Daryl has come up with a great, great goal.

“We deserved a point, without question.”

Daryl Murphy celebrates scoring his side’s second goal at the Rajko Mitic Stadium. Photo: Nick Potts/PA
Daryl Murphy celebrates scoring his side’s second goal at the Rajko Mitic Stadium. Photo: Nick Potts/PA

When pressed on his side’s inability to hold on to their early lead, the Irish manager pointed to the fact Serbia gave away the ball as well as Ireland.

“This is very, very difficult, playing away from home in a World cup qualifier,” O’Neill stated.

“These boys (Serbia) play in big, big leagues. Actually, they gave it away a few times. The conditions didn’t help but we have not come here expecting to control the game for 90 minutes in an away game against Serbia, that’s lunacy.

“At the end of all that we have fought back and gotten a point. They tell me the penalty decision was a wee bit soft. It was deemed a penalty by the referee who I thought wasn’t sure about his game at all tonight.”

Serbia's Dusan Tadic celebrates scoring his side's second goal from the penalty spot. Photo: Nick Potts/PA
Serbia's Dusan Tadic celebrates scoring his side's second goal from the penalty spot. Photo: Nick Potts/PA

Despite a poor performance, a point away from home is a welcome one, something Martin O’Neill believes should be celebrated despite a ragged performance.

“It is a great point, a great point this early on in the competition,” the Irish manager reiterated.

“France is gone and out of the way. Some of the younger players are coming in here and are very fine players who are going to get fitter as the season goes on. That point there sets us up for next month and hopefully, we are going to drive on.

“This group will have turns and twists, everything you can name between now and qualification time. You don’t know realise hard it is to come away from home and score twice in such difficult conditions. We have done it brilliantly.”


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