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progress made Gavin Bazunu sounds the rallying cry for Stephen Kenny ahead of a crucial week


Ireland goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu. Image credit: Sportsfile.

Ireland goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu. Image credit: Sportsfile.

Ireland goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu. Image credit: Sportsfile.

Gavin Bazunu is determined his penalty save from Cristiano Ronaldo will not be the defining moment of his career.

The 19-year-old Republic of Ireland goalkeeper made his name on the international stage last month when he denied the returning Manchester United superstar from the spot in a World Cup qualifier at the Estadio Algarve.

Ronaldo had the last laugh when he scored two late headers to condemn Ireland to a 2-1 defeat after they had come within a minute of a famous victory, although Bazunu claimed a share of the headlines.

However, asked how many times he had gone back over those few seconds in his mind since, he replied: “I don’t think about it too much, but there are a lot of people who bring it up every now and again and it’s a nice thing to be able to go back to.

“But I just want to kick on and I want to have another moment like that.”

Manchester City’s Bazunu is currently on loan at Sky Bet League One Portsmouth but appears to have established himself as Ireland’s number one under Stephen Kenny, with his exploits in Faro doing his cause little harm.

He said: “Before every game I look at penalty takers and I spoke to (goalkeeping coach) Dean Kiely before the game whether it was Ronaldo or (Bruno) Fernandes who was going to take it, the different run-ups that they might have and what side I was going to go to depending on his run-up.

“I stuck to my gut and I was able to make the save, which was brilliant.”

Asked about the reaction on his return to his club, he said with a smile: “A lot of people were asking what it was like. But the performance was outstanding that night, we just didn’t get the result, it didn’t go our way in the end. But it shows real promise for the upcoming games.”

Ireland’s hopes of making it to Qatar next year have been dashed since that near miss by home draws with Azerbaijan and Serbia, and they head into the reverse fixture with the Azeris in Baku on Saturday evening looking for positives with one eye already on the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign.

They are yet to win a competitive game under Kenny in 12 attempts and have tasted victory only once in his 16-match reign to date, and that in a friendly against Andorra.

However, Bazunu insists that the new-look squad the manager has put together has already shown promise and is confident there is much more to come.

Asked if the winless run was a concern, he said: “Not at all, because I see massive progress over the last few games and I see where we’re going as a group, and I feel that’s what a lot of the other players think.

“They can see the progress we’re making with a lot of the young lads that are coming through and how brave we are in terms of playing and we’ve just not got rewarded for that.

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“But I’m sure if we continue to play how we have played and if we continue to build on what we’ve done, the results will come.”

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