Iceland Beat Republic of Ireland 1-0 After Hordur Bjorgvin Magnusson Goal

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistMarch 28, 2017

DUBLIN, IRELAND - MARCH 28: (L-R) Sverrir Ingason of Iceland, James McClean of Republic of Ireland, Rurik Gislason of Iceland and Kevin Doyle of Republic of Ireland challenge for the ball during the International Friendly match between Republic of Ireland and Iceland at Aviva Stadium on March 28, 2017 in Dublin, Ireland.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Ian Walton/Getty Images

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).

Republic manager Martin O'Neill fielded a changed side featuring Burnley winger Robbie Brady as skipper, per the Irish FA:

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.

Gunnarsson's long throws caused a host of problems for Ireland in the first half.
Gunnarsson's long throws caused a host of problems for Ireland in the first half.VI-Images/Getty Images

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:

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.

McClean was one of Ireland's better players during the opening 45 minutes.
McClean was one of Ireland's better players during the opening 45 minutes.Ian Walton/Getty Images

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.

Post-Match Reaction

O'Neill singled out impressive debutant Horgan for special praise afterwards:

The manager also bemoaned how his side failed to do enough with the lion's share of possession in the second half:

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:

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.

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