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KENNY BELIEVE IT ‘I feel we are improving all the time’ – Stephen Kenny aims to finish year on a high after ‘overdue’ first competitive victory


Ireland manager Stephen Kenny and captain John Egan celebrate their World Cup 2022 qualifying victory over Azerbaijan in Baku

Ireland manager Stephen Kenny and captain John Egan celebrate their World Cup 2022 qualifying victory over Azerbaijan in Baku

Ireland manager Stephen Kenny and captain John Egan celebrate their World Cup 2022 qualifying victory over Azerbaijan in Baku

Stephen Kenny wants his Ireland side to use their "overdue" first competitive win of his reign as a platform to finish off the year on a high in the November window where clashes with Portugal and Luxembourg await.

Kenny's team earned a 3-0 win away to Azerbaijan in Baku, goals from Callum Robinson (2) and Chiedozie Ogbene as the Ireland manager felt that the win was coming on the back of what he saw as positive displays in the last window.

"From our point of view the win was overdue, to win 3-0 away from home in a qualifier is rare. Azerbaijan have been dangerous opponents for many teams in very tight games, so for us to win 3-0 was terrific. Now that's just one defeat in the last seven games, and that was the late goal in Portugal, Ronaldo, I feel we are improving all the time," Kenny said after the 3-0 win.

"If you'd asked us before the game about a 3-0 win we'd have been more than satisfied. We know that Azerbaijan pushed Portugal all the way earlier in the camp, an own goal was the only difference between a 1-0 win, Serbia scored a late goal to win 2-1 so we knew we'd have nothing easy and would have to earn the victory.

"We are satisfied with the victory," said Kenny, hoping that the win in Baku could be a "springboard" for more success.

"The games in the summer were (a springboard) as well, when we won 4-1 and drew in Hungary, we took that into the last camp," he said.

"I thought we had some criticism for our performance against Azerbaijan at home, but we had three great games last month. I thought we performed well, at times, over that week so it was good to get the goals and it gives us a platform going into November. We have a quick turnaround now for Qatar and hopefully take that into the November window.

"Azerbaijan had some periods of possession but didn’t really create clear cut chances in that period but they are very good at retaining possession, and they did cause us some problems, and Callum's two goals gave us a great platform.

"We had some good chances ourselves and I felt we were dangerous all the time with our pace. It’s an important ingredient and in the second half we were intelligent in how we played, created a lot of chances, and couldn’t get the third goal. But thankfully Chiedoze scored that third goal and that was very important to finish the game."

Kenny also hailed the impact made by two-goal hero Robinson, who finished off a difficult week with the two strikes. "We have missed him, sometimes he's not available. He's a very creative and versatile player, he's very intelligent, the positions he takes up and the decisions he makes," Kenny said.

"It's ironic that he had probably three or four easier chances in the second half than the ones he scored in the first half, they were outstanding finishes but the volley he had in the first half which was just over the bar was a brilliant technical effort. He did terrific for us."

Rotherham player Ogbene, who scored his first international goal, dedicated a chunk of the credit for the win to his manager

"The mood is high in the dressing room, 3-0 away from home is a great result for us, for the manager and the nation," Ogbene said.

"As Stephen said, it's a result that is overdue, a lot of us have made a lot of sacrifices. We have taken a lot of criticism on the way here and I feel like we deserve it, deserve to be happy tonight and we need to maximise the occasion and enjoy it to the most, it's my first goal, it's overwhelming, I made a lot of sacrifices, my family and friends, it means a lot.

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"I owe it to the gaffer for believing in me, the squad we had tonight anyone could have come on at any moment, he believed in me and bringing me on, it's special for the team and for the nation," added Ogbene, who made the switch from League One football with the Millers to deliver a World Cup goal.

"I believe in myself and my ability and I guess that I have not come here by luck. The manager has watched me for many months and he obviously believes that my qualities are valuable to the team," Ogbene said.

"So when I was on the pitch, it's a lot different from club football. This is the highest level of football and playing in it has always been a dream of mine."

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