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Stephen Kenny’s reign got off to an underwhelming start as a weak Bulgaria team that had been in poor form nearly claimed all three points.
The long-planned switch in the dugout was never going to prove a panacea for their dearth of goals and despite fashioning some chances, a lack of clinical edge prevented them from taking control of the game. Indeed, when the goal did come it was centre-back Shane Duffy heading in from a set-piece.
Still, it was a more youthful side that took to the field and the new man in charge will feel there’s something to build upon from the performance.
Bulgaria’s opener came against the run of play, with new Celtic signing Duffy and Sheffield Utd’s John Egan leaving far too much room between them to allow the pass through, but they will need some time to adapt to an approach that builds from the back.
Ireland were a little more open and though they may evolve into a more forward-thinking outfit under Kenny, there’s a defensive discipline that hangs over from the tutelage of Martin O’Neill and Mick McCarthy. 22 of Ireland’s last 27 matches have now seen Under 2.5 Goals land, including 14 of the past 16, so we’d be surprised if the same outcome didn’t occur here.
That’s especially the case given their opponents Finland haven’t been the most exciting team to watch either. Despite facing an injury-afflicted Welsh team they failed to score, even if they did miss a point-blank opportunity to take a second-half lead.
They aren’t absent of threat with Teemu Pukki leading the line, but while he scored 10 times in European qualifiers, he rather went off the boil for relegated Norwich and last scored a competitive goal for club or country back in January.
Republic Of Ireland To Win And Under 2.5 Goals
The result against the Welsh means that at least one team or the other has failed to score in 18 of Finland’s past 21 matches now, while 14 of their last 19 have seen fewer than three goals. Under 2.5 goals is understandably at a short price though, as is both teams to score (no), but Ireland should just edge this one.
They’re tough to overcome with just one defeat in 13 matches since November 2016 (W5-D7-L1). All but one of those wins came on home turf, where they’ve typically taken maximum points against weaker opponents.
The likes of Demark (three times), Switzerland, Northern Ireland and Wales have avoided defeat or better in Dublin since October 2017, but the hosts won their other six games across this period.
Ireland can also take encouragement from Finland’s W4-D3-L13 record on their travels since 2016, where even the four victories came over minnows Kosovo, Estonia, Armenia and Liechtenstein.
The visitors failed to score in all but one of those defeats, so the home win to nil looks highly promising in this one. However, given we expect this to be a low-scoring affair, Ireland & Under 2.5 Goals is more tempting.
Republic Of Ireland To Win And Under 2.5 Goals At 9/4
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND V FINLAND ODDS AVAILABLE HERE
ODDS ARE CORRECT AS OF 4/9/2020 HOWEVER ARE SUBJECT TO FLUCTUATIONS