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Nations League: Kenny says Republic of Ireland players 'don't have time to hurt' after Ukraine loss

Republic boss Kenny reacts during the game
Kenny was left frustrated as his side fell to a second 1-0 defeat in the space of four days

Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny has told his players they do not have time to dwell on a dispiriting start to the Nations League with a home game against Scotland to come on Saturday.

Wednesday’s defeat by Ukraine leaves the Irish without a point after two games, having also fallen to a shock loss in their opener against Armenia.

“We’re hurting at the moment and we don’t have time for that, such is the quick turnaround here,” Kenny said.

“We’ve got to get ready for Scotland.”

The Republic had approached the new Nations League campaign with growing optimism following an eight-game unbeaten run that included creditable home draws with Portugal and Belgium.

Last year, Kenny said his aim was to win Nations League Group B1 but successive 1-0 defeats leave the Irish bottom, with another game against Ukraine, this time in Poland, to come after Saturday’s encounter with the Scots.

  • Republic beaten by Ukraine – as it happened

Asked whether he was surprised that his side had failed to take at least a point from their opening two games, Kenny said: “We wanted to do that and we haven’t done that, that’s for sure, particularly with the game in Armenia.

“We always knew that Ukraine would be a tough game – they got to the quarter-finals of the European Championships, they’re a quality team, so that was always going to be a tough game.

“But of course we would want points. I’m just raging that we didn’t get at least one win there in the two narrow games.”

Fresh from an emotional World Cup play-off final defeat by Wales in Cardiff, Ukraine made 10 changes and secured all three points through substitute Viktor Tsygankov’s 48th-minute free-kick, which caught out Republic goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher, prompting Kenny to describe it as a “fluke”.

The Republic struggled to break down a youthful Ukrainian back three for much of the game but Shane Duffy came close to rescuing a point 11 minutes from time when he saw his header tipped on to the crossbar by keeper Andriy Lunin.

Jason Knight, described by his manager as “exceptional” at times, also missed a late chance when he fired a shot over the bar after Duffy’s bicycle kick was blocked, with Kenny insisting he could not fault his team’s appetite.

“I can’t fault the players – the players left everything out there,” said Kenny, who is yet to win a Nations League game after eight attempts.

“They gave absolutely everything. I told them before the game, ‘It’s not enough just to give 100%, you’ve got to extract every ounce of yourself in trying to get the result that we need’, and I thought the players gave absolutely everything of themselves there.”

Petrakov thankful for ‘incredible’ Irish hospitality

Ukraine boss Oleksandr Petrakov
Ukraine boss Oleksandr Petrakov said he was moved by the Irish people’s hospitality

Ukraine coach Oleksandr Petrakov handed seven players competitive debuts as he looked to give minutes to some of the younger members of his squad.

And while Taras Kacharaba’s stunning first-half strike was ruled out following a VAR review for offside, Tsignakov’s effort gave Ukraine a second win in what was their third competitive game since the Russian invasion.

The FAI gifted 3,500 tickets to Ukrainian refugees for the game and Petrakov spoke of his gratitude for the Irish people’s hospitality at the end of his post-match press conference.

“Clearly this is a very difficult time when Ukrainians come to see us playing in Ireland, Ukrainians who were accepted by this incredible hospitality by the Irish people,” said Petrakov, who explained that he had been moved by well-wishes he received while out walking around Dublin before Wednesday’s game.

“You guys took in our women and children, who were risking their lives back in Ukraine and I want to extend our gratitude to the whole of Ireland.

“I understand those Ukrainians who were in the stands, all they wanted to see was just a bit of positivity from our team.

“But at the same time, they’re really longing to go home, go back to Ukraine and we made them a little bit happier. That is the major achievement, in my view.”

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