Ireland player ratings v Latvia: Evan Ferguson takes less than 20 minutes to score first goal

Will Smallbone looked assured and comfortable at this level, a player with a bright future in green

16 Caoimhín Kelleher (Liverpool)

Could not be faulted for either of Latvia’s goals, the first was a PlayStation strike from outside the box to the top corner, while the second came whizzing in and took a wicked deflection off Nathan Collins, leaving Kelleher little opportunity to react. Rating: 7

22 Andrew Omobamidele (Norwich City)

Latvia rarely got in behind the Ireland defence, but Omobamidele was forced to scramble back midway through the first half after a ball over the top set the visitors away. Luckily for Ireland they scuffed the opportunity. Was taken off just after the hour mark. Rating: 6


12 Nathan Collins (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Was at the centre of a back three alongside Andrew Omobamidele and Dara O’Shea. His passing at times wasn’t on the money and Collins didn’t convincingly clear the danger for Latvia’s second goal either, though it was a difficult dropping ball with no pace for him to try head away. Rating: 6

4 Dara O’Shea (West Bromwich Albion)

O’Shea and O’Dowda both tried to clear the ball in the dying seconds of the first half, and in their desire to address the danger they collided and the ball fell to Arturs Zjuzins, whose shot ricocheted in beyond Kelleher. Rating: 6

7 Matt Doherty (Atletico Madrid)

Captain on the night, and Doherty certainly led by example in the opening half-hour as he was involved in so much of Ireland’s creative attacking play – including the first two goals. However, he was guilty of giving away possession out wide on the right in the 33rd minute, and Latvia capitalised with a wonder goal by Roberts Uldrikis. Rating: 7

21 Will Smallbone (Stoke City)

Swung in a beautifully weighted cross from the right for Ireland’s opening goal, after just six minutes of his debut. Brought appreciated gasps from the crowd with a wonderful blind over the head pass to Doherty during the first half as well. He also played a role in the creation of Ireland’s second goal and his deliveries caused Latvia headaches all evening. Looked so assured and comfortable at this level, a player with a bright future in green. Rating: 8

14 Jayson Molumby (West Bromwich Albion)

As most of the Ireland players made their way over to celebrate with Callum O’Dowda following his goal, Dara O’Shea made a beeline for Molumby, because it was a brilliant ball-winning tackle in the middle of the field by the West Brom man that set Ireland on their way for the goal. He was also involved in the creation of the second goal. Rating: 7

8 Alan Browne (Preston North End)

There was an early stray pass from Browne and also a first-half goal chance which he didn’t take advantage of, but he was busy as always and set up a goal chance for Obafemi with a neat through pass late in the first half. Rating: 6

3 Callum O’Dowda (Cardiff City)

Got himself in a brilliant position to nod home an early goal, showing great awareness to first read Smallbone’s delivery and then show the determination to get in front of his man to head the ball low to the back of the net. Will be disappointed by the lack of communication with O’Shea that led to Latvia’s second goal. Rating: 7

9 Michael Obafemi (Swansea City)

The Swansea player did well to judge Doherty’s deep cross that ultimately led to Ferguson’s goal. Obafemi took up a position on the endline and was able to tap the ball back to the six-yard box where Ferguson pounced. Had a goal chance blocked late in the first half, when he might have pulled the trigger earlier. Was replaced by Johnson during the second half. Rating: 6

19 Evan Ferguson (Brighton & Hove Albion)

The boy wonder didn’t have to wait long to leave his mark, on his first senior international start it took Ferguson less than 20 minutes to score his maiden goal. Ferguson also won a couple of first-half corners. Tried a long-distance effort in the second half but didn’t have as big an impact as the game went on and was taken off with quarter of an hour remaining, no doubt because Kenny had one eye on next Monday night. Rating: 7


John Egan (Sheffield United)

Helped lead the defensive line when he replaced Omobamidele. Rating: 6

Chiedozie Ogbene (Rotherham United)

Ogbene will have done his chances of featuring against France no harm with his impact off the bench here, the Rotherham player taking up a good position to poke home what turned out to be the winning goal. Rating: 7

Mikey Johnston (Vitoria)

His first touch as an Irish player saw the former Scotland underage player strike the post, with Ogbene capitalising on the rebound to knock home Ireland’s third goal. Performed an outrageous skilful dribbling run inside the box late on. A very encouraging cameo. Rating: 7

Troy Parrott (Preston North End)

Replaced Ferguson with a little over 15 minutes remaining. Rating: 5

James McClean (Wigan Athletic)

Came off the bench late on to win his 97th Ireland cap. Rating: 5

Jeff Hendrick (Reading)

Hendrick replaced Smallbone for the closing stages. Rating: 5


Stephen Kenny

It was the right decision to throw Will Smallbone and Evan Ferguson in from the start. And while Ferguson had all the prematch attention, Smallbone might well be just as important to Ireland’s development in the years ahead. Kenny’s team started brightly, but sloppiness crept in. Still, two of his subs were involved in the match winner just seconds after they were introduced – Johnston striking the post and Ogbene smacking home the rebound. Rating: 7

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning

Gordon Manning is a sports journalist, specialising in Gaelic games, with The Irish Times