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Martin O'Neill rues missed chances and 'sloppy' goal

Updated: Thursday, 06 Mar 2014 13:34 | Comments

Shane Long puts Ireland ahead against Serbia
Shane Long puts Ireland ahead against Serbia

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Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill says his side missed a “great chance” to build on a good start against Serbia, who went on to win last night's friendly 2-1.

Speaking to RTÉ Sport after the game, O’Neill said that he had been “delighted with the start” and that “We had a great, great chance to make it two-nil.

"That would have been a big moment for us. I think we would have gone on to win the game.”

O’Neill said that Ireland were “a little bit hesitant in the second half, leading to their equalising goal. And even though we had a really good chance to go 2-1 in front, the second goal was a bit sloppy from our viewpoint.”

"Though there are certainly positive moments in the game, there are also things we can learn from" - Martin O'Neill

He admitted that Shane Long would be disappointed with his performance, after the Hull striker missed good opportunities to add to his 10th-minute opener.

Long passed up another glorious chance on the half hour, and the Serbs took full advantage as James McCarthy's 48th-minute own goal and Filip Dordevic's close-range finish on the hour won the day.

In the meantime, Long had failed to make the most of another fine opening, once again created by the excellent Hoolahan.

“I think he’s disappointed,” O’Neill said. [We had] a fantastic move for the [chance] just after we’d scored and with confidence up, having taken his first goal brilliantly, I thought he would have tucked that one away.

“The one in the second half, I thought he could have gone on, which he said in the dressing-room himself.”

Overall, O’Neill commended the Irish performance and said they would learn from missed opportunities.

He denied that his team selection had been cavalier, saying: “I’m not so sure you’d be asking me the same question if we’d gone on to win the game, which we could easily have done.

“But we didn’t win it, and though there are certainly positive moments in the game, there are also things we can learn from.”

Asked whether this first defeat under his and Roy Keane’s management team had “burst a bubble”, O’Neill stressed the importance of giving new players experience, and said that the real test would begin in September, when Ireland’s qualification attempt for the Euro 2016 gets under way against Georgia.

"It's a friendly game,” O’Neill said. “We're playing matches, we're trying to find out [about players]. The big game's coming up in September.

"I'm not so sure there was a bubble there to burst in the first place."

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