Captain Coleman to miss decisive Denmark game as Ireland lose in Switzerland

And so it's Daneja vu all over again.

Captain Coleman to miss decisive Denmark game as Ireland lose in Switzerland

[team1]Switzerland[/team1][score1]2[/score1][team2]Republic of Ireland[/team2][score2]0[/score2][/score]

And so it's Daneja vu all over again.

And Ireland will have to face their old foes in Dublin next month without Seamus Coleman, after the skipper was given his marching orders in Geneva on a night when the much superior class of the hosts deservedly shone through, with Darren Randolph - whose string of fine saves included keeping a penalty at bay - the man mainly responsible for ensuring it wasn’t a heavier first defeat of this campaign for Mick McCarthy’s team.

Darren Randolph saves a penalty from Ricardo Rodríguez of Switzerland. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Darren Randolph saves a penalty from Ricardo Rodríguez of Switzerland. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Even before the game kicked off, the going was already decidedly heavy in the Stade de Geneve, the recently laid pitch – despite passing an inspection two hours before kick off a - carpet of the bedraggled kind after a day’s incessant rain had soaked the ground, leaving large sections looking like it had just gone under the plough.

While Switzerland manager Vladimir Petkovic kept faith with the side beaten 1-0 in Copenhagen, there were three changes in the Irish side from the scoreless draw in Tbilisi on Saturday, Enda Stevens, as expected, replacing Matt Doherty, Conor Hourihane making way in midfield for his fellow Corkman Alan Browne and, with Callum Robinson also confined to the bench, a first competitive start for man of the moment Aaron Connolly.

Ireland’s James McClean with Nico Elvedi of Switzerland. Photo: INPHO/Tommy Dickson
Ireland’s James McClean with Nico Elvedi of Switzerland. Photo: INPHO/Tommy Dickson

The selection of the in-form Brighton striker wasn’t a surprise but what was unexpected was that McCarthy would select Stevens as one of three at the back, with Seamus Coleman and James McClean deployed as wingbacks, on paper a bold but not illogical 3-5-2 formation given this was a night when Ireland had everything to gain and nothing to lose and, in seeking to match the opposition, the manager was clearly hoping to benefit from having extra bodies in midfield while giving Connolly the support he thought he needed upfront.

And at least in the very earliest exchanges, having Collins and Connolly in cahoots made it a little less comfortable for the Swiss to play out from the back but, even on the sticky surface, the hosts soon enough found their fleet feet, the red shirts pouring forward and, just seven minutes in, Granit Xhaka drawing a full-length diving save from Darren Randolph.

Switzerland's Haris Seferovic celebrates after scoring the first goal. Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP
Switzerland's Haris Seferovic celebrates after scoring the first goal. Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP

And with Swiss pressure intensifying and Ireland struggling, as they so often do, to keep even basic possession of the ball, there was nothing the ‘keeper could do in the 16th minute when Xhaka laid a neat pass off to leading scorer Haris Seferovic who emphatically broke a long goal drought by arrowing a low drive through Shane Duffy’s legs and past Randolph’s outstretched hand to the corner of the net.

A tough night for Ireland had suddenly got a whole lot tougher, with Connolly now cutting an isolated figure upfront as the rest of the team were pegged back in their own half, manifestly struggling to contain the expansive and incisive pass and move of the hosts.

Aaron Connolly in action against Nico Elvedi of Switzerland. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Aaron Connolly in action against Nico Elvedi of Switzerland. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Coming up to the half-hour mark, McCarthy had seen enough to know that his opening gambit was falling flat, the Irish switching to something more like a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Connolly, who was at least winning his share of free-kicks, taking up his U21 position on the left and McClean switching to the right.

A bit later and it was more like 4-4-2, with Browne on the right and Connolly back central but, whatever the Irish tried, it was the Swiss who continued to pose all the attacking questions, Fabian Schar curling one just wide of the post in the 37th minute at the end of a move which had begun with Connolly losing possession as Ireland had threatened a rare counter-attack.

As ever, the visitors’ first effort on target came from a set-piece, Duffy’s header from a Glenn Whelan corner comfortably saved by Yann Sommer. And then, right on the stroke of half-time, Collins, after a clever pass from Browne, really should have worked the ‘keeper harder, his left foot shot too tame to trouble Sommer.

Glenn Whelan dejected after Ireland concede. Photo: INPHO/Tommy Dickson
Glenn Whelan dejected after Ireland concede. Photo: INPHO/Tommy Dickson

But those minor displays of resistance, coupled with the fact that the Swiss lead had been kept to one, was really all Ireland had to show for a torrid first 45 minutes.

It was time for yet another change at the restart, Callum O’Dowda coming in for Collins, his first involvement to be chopped down by Manuel Akanji but Ireland weren’t able to capitalise on the resultant free.

Darren Randolph makes a save. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Darren Randolph makes a save. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

After Randolph had done well to turn over a powerful Seferovic header over his bar, Ireland managed to construct their first coherent passage of pressure on the Swiss goal, in the middle of which Connolly tried but failed with an attempt at an acrobatic overhead kick. And with the tireless Whelan leading by example in midfield, Duffy increasingly moving forward from the back and his defensive partner John Egan even rifling one just wide, the Irish fans massed behind Sommer’s goal finally felt they had reason to raise their voice.

Yet, for all that this was improved Irish performance in the second half, it was the Swiss who came closest to scoring again, Schar heading against the upright from a Rodriguez corner.

In the quest for an Irish goal, McCarthy brought Connolly’s involvement to an end in the 69th minute, Scott Hogan coming off the bench, but with the Swiss as quick to close down their opponents as they were to open up the play, Ireland continued to play second fiddle.

And, in the 76th minute, things went from bad to worse to an unlikely hint of a reprieve, with Seamus Coleman doubly penalised for handball in the box when he blocked a shot from the irrepressible Breel Embolo, first with the awarding of a penalty and then with a sending off for what was second bookable offence, a red card which means the skipper is out of next month’s game against Denmark.

Jeff Hendrick, right, and James McClean react after Ireland's loss to Switzerland. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Jeff Hendrick, right, and James McClean react after Ireland's loss to Switzerland. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

But with the Swiss crowd ready to acclaim the confirmation goal they craved, Randolph pulled off a superb save to turn Ricardo Rodriguez spot-kick onto the post.

It meant that, even against 10 men, it made for a slightly nervier end game for the home side than their dominant performance on the night deserved. But the team which has made a habit of conceding late goals emphatically broke it in the last minute of time added on, Shane Duffy’s despairing last-ditch lunge turning substitute Edmilson Fernandes’ shot into the Irish net to send the locals home happy and the Irish back to Dublin with a lot to be concerned about ahead of the visit of the Denmark.

Switzerland: Sommer, Elvedi, Schär, Akanji, Lichsteiner (Freuler 69), Zakaria, Xhaka, Embolo (Steffen 86) , Rodriguez, Mehmedi (Fernandes 28) Seferovic.

Republic of Ireland: Randolph, Coleman, Duffy, Egan, Stevens, Hendrick, Whelan, Browne, McClean, Collins (O’Dowda 45), Connolly (Hogan 69)

Referee: Szymon Marciniak (Poland)

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