Norwich City star Wes Hoolahan back in action as Republic of Ireland suffer painful defeat to Serbia

Norwich City star Wes Hoolahan started for Ireland against Serbia, despite an injury doubt. Picture:

Norwich City star Wes Hoolahan started for Ireland against Serbia, despite an injury doubt. Picture: PA - Credit: PA

Fears over a groin injury to Norwich City talisman Wes Hoolahan were eased this evening as he started for the Republic of Ireland.

The Canaries playmaker had missed Saturday’s 1-1 draw in Georgia, causing media pundits including former Arsenal star Liam Brady to question his absence.

It emerged in the wake of the game that the 35-year-old had a groin issue and could even miss tonight’s crunch World Cup qualifier with Serbia in Dublin.

However, Hoolahan shook off that problem to start for Martin O’Neill’s side but came off in the 62nd minute of a 1-0 defeat that could prove extremely costly to the Republic’s hopes of playing in Russia next summer.

Former Manchester City man Aleksander Kolarov hammered in a winner in the 55th minute and the visitors held on despite Nikola Maksimovic’s 68th-minute red card.

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Hoolahan had been replaced by former Ipswich centre-forward Daryl Murphy for much of the second half though, prompting hopes that he will be okay for action with the Canaries at the weekend.

Ireland have slipped to third in Group D, after Wales followed up their 1-0 home win over group leaders Serbia on Saturday with a 2-0 win in Moldova, thanks to late goals from Hal Robson-Kanu and Aaron Ramsey – with Norwich forward Marley Watkins an unused substitute in both games.

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Wales go to Georgia in their next qualifier while Ireland host Moldova, before a crunch clash between the pair in Cardiff in the final game.

Elsewhere, Norwich keeper Angus Gunn was not involved as the England Under-21s beat Latvia 3-0 in Bournemouth, winning the 2019 European U21 Championship qualifier thanks to goals from Demarai Gray, Tammy Abraham and Kasey Palmer.

It was unclear why Gunn wasn’t involved, having played all of a 1-1 draw in the Netherlands on Friday, with Freddie Woodman of Newcastle taking the gloves.

Norwich return to action on Saturday when Birmingham City come to Carrow Road for the next Championship fixture for Daniel Farke’s side, looking to bounce back from a 4-0 thumping at Millwall ahead of the international break.

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