Iceland beat Republic of Ireland 1-0 in an international friendly at Dublin's Aviva Stadium on Tuesday night. The visitors won thanks to a goal from Bristol City defender Hordur Bjorgvin Magnusson, who struck a low free-kick into the bottom corner in the first half.
Ireland piled on the pressure in the second half. But a mixed team missing several senior figures, including injured captain Seamus Coleman, couldn't find a breakthrough.
It's Ireland's first defeat in 16 matches at the Aviva Stadium, according to Omnisport (h/t Yahoo Sport UK).
A reminder of the starting 11 as John Egan and Conor Hourihane are set to make their international debuts! #COYBIG https://t.co/s4HbMIGmuS2017-3-28 18:38:44
A predictably physical contest saw Brentford centre-back John Egan require treatment after being bloodied by an elbow to the face. Thankfully, Egan quickly returned, although sporting a bandage. The hosts needed all their defenders available to deal with the aerial bombardment from Iceland.
Striker Kristjan Finnbogason nearly reached a typically long throw from skipper Aron Gunnarsson in the ninth minute. Derby County defender Alex Pearce was able to head clear as claps of thunder could be heard from the Dublin skies.
However, it was Iceland who were determined to rain down on the Irish goal. The visitors found their breakthrough when Magnusson curled in an excellent free-kick on 21 minutes.
The set piece had come after senior international debutant Egan had been drawn into a reckless challenge on the edge of the box. Egan appeared to struggle with the pace of play early on, as Iceland consistently went direct.
Finbogason twice went close as Iceland played with greater pace, power and intensity during the opening 35 minutes. In fact, radio station Newstalk Sport called for more from the hosts:
Newstalk Sport @NewstalkSport
Wide from Finnbogason, another decent chance. Ireland really need to wake up #IRLICE2017-3-28 19:18:09
Yet the home side couldn't oblige, largely because O'Neill's men were struggling to muster any threat up front. In particular, veteran target man Kevin Doyle's inability to find space was wasting some bright play from wingers Aiden McGeady and James McClean.
Brady, McGeady and Co. continued supplying Doyle with chances, though, and an astute through ball from the captain forced a rare corner. Yet a lack of intuitive movement in the box saw the set piece go to waste.
Ireland were more lively after the break, with Jonny Hayes teasing in a fantastic cross that Doyle again failed to meet. Cyrus Christie also began finding room on the right flank as he made more raiding runs from full-back.
O'Neill took the chance to make a few changes, including handing an international debut to Preston North End winger Daryl Horgan. His first contribution was to drop a cross just inches away from the boot of McClean, who had made a smart run through the middle.
It was McClean's last contribution as O'Neill soon replaced him with Southampton forward Shane Long. Horgan and Long kept Ireland on the front foot, but the hosts failed to make the most of their numerous corners.
The home side also couldn't release Long's pace behind a stubborn Iceland defence content to sit deep and play out time. Ultimately, the visitors delivered a near-flawless away performance, based on stifling possession and making the most of their own select opportunities to break.
Meanwhile, Ireland may have got some young and fringe players involved, but they will rue their lack of quality in the final third.
O'Neill singled out impressive debutant Horgan for special praise afterwards:
Martin O'Neill: I thought Horgan did really well when he came on. Robbie Brady also dealt with everything very well this evening as captain. https://t.co/nKDQTgWyF02017-3-28 21:17:52
The manager also bemoaned how his side failed to do enough with the lion's share of possession in the second half:
Martin O'Neill: First half we didn't do well at all. In the second half we had loads of possession but we need to create more chances.2017-3-28 21:19:26
On a more positive note, O'Neill did provide an encouraging update on Coleman, who continues to recover from the double leg fracture he suffered in the 0-0 draw against Wales:
Martin O'Neill: Seamus Coleman is doing much better today. I saw him earlier. He's in better spirits and has his family around him. #COYBIG2017-3-28 21:22:48
O'Neill will know how much his team missed its senior players. This is a squad lacking the quality and depth to mix things up and still win.