SHANE Long committed Martin O’Neill to his first defeat as Ireland manager, after missing two “frustrating” opportunities to put Ireland ahead in last night’s 2-1 loss to Serbia.
The Hull striker took advantage of an early error by Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic in the eight minute to open the scoring against the visitors, after a previous off-side goal by Wes Hoolahan was disallowed in the second minute.
Despite scoring his 11th goal for Ireland and his 44th international cap, Long later passed up two chances to add to his tally and to prove that he could succeed the absent Robbie Keane.
“It’s frustrating you know, I thought I did a lot of things right and caused them a few problems but sadly it will be remembered for the two misses I had,” he said.
“Nine out of 10 times in training you’d take them and sadly they didn’t go in for me today.
“It’s nice to get a goal, nice to play up front with Wes as well, I think he enjoyed setting me up and it’s a striker’s dream when you have someone like Wes behind you.”
Long fired twice straight at keeper Vladimir Stojkovic in the first half and then struck wide eight minutes after half-time, allowing Serbia to get back into the game.
“I think the second chance I had the keeper gambled you know and read me like a book,” he added.
“And the third I just kind of dragged it a little bit but I’ll learn from it and luckily it wasn’t in a qualifying game.”
Ljubinko Drulovic's men had levelled three minutes after the break with James McCarthy guiding the ball into this own net, but the visitors might have been level in the first half had the Everton midfielder not cleared Ivanovic's header off the line.
Ireland’s woes didn’t end there, Filip Dordevic found himself perfectly positioned to score a close range goal with 30 minutes to go.
Whilst O’Neill may be disappointed with Long’s missed opportunity to claim a hat trick and a third consecutive unbeaten game for Ireland, he will definitely be impressed by Hoolahan’s lively upfield presence on the pitch.
He will certainly have much to think about ahead of Ireland’s qualifying campaign for Euro 2016.