Gavin Bazunu makes Portsmouth claim after establishing himself as Republic of Ireland No1

Gavin Bazunu believes the game time he’s getting at Pompey this season is helping him retain his position as Republic of Ireland No1.

Tuesday, 5th October 2021, 4:48 pm
Updated Tuesday, 5th October 2021, 6:03 pm

His recent performances in the Eire jersey suggest it’s not the only reason.

After all, he saved a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty in Ireland’s recent World Cup qualifier against Portugal.

The 19-year-old Manchester City loanee then followed that up with a string of top-class saves and a man-of-the-match performance in the Republic’s 1-1 draw against Serbia.

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Six-times capped Bazunu, who has featured 10 times for the Blues this season and kept four clean sheets, is expected to retain his starting place in Stephen Kenny’s starting line-up for Saturday’s qualifier against Azerbaijan in Baku.

He’s currently ahead of Liverpool No2 Caoimhín Kelleher, Bournemouth first-choice Mark Travers and Darren Randolph (West Ham) in the pecking order.

And the Dubliner believes he enjoys such lofty status thanks his decision to move to Fratton Park this season rather than playing second fiddle to Ederson at the Etihad Stadium.

Speaking from the Ireland training camp, Bazunu – who spent last season on loan at Rochdale – said: My opinion was always game-time.

Pompey keeper Gavin Bazunu is currently away with the Republic of Ireland squad

‘That was most important and it's why I went on loan to Rochdale and now Portsmouth.

‘I'm 100-per-cent sure that I wouldn't be anywhere near the position I am now without having that backing of games and having that experience and this confidence, just because of the amount of games that I've got under my belt.

‘For me, playing games is the most important thing.

‘It can be difficult for some players to be in the Premier League and struggling a bit whereas some players are in the Championship are really thriving.

‘At the end of the day it's down to those players and if they believe they are good enough to step up and play in the Premier League, all credit to them.

‘My personal opinion is that you should always try and play at the highest level you can.’

No doubt, the penalty save to deny Ronaldo at the Estadio Algarve stands out as the highlight of Bazunu’s fledgling career.

The stop prevented the Portuguese from claiming the men's all-time international scoring record at the time – although Ronaldo did seal it with two last-gasp headers to deny Ireland a famous victory.

Bazunu admitted a predecessor of his at Fratton Park helped him stand up and succeed against the Manchester United ace.

He added: ‘Before every game I look at penalty takers and I spoke to Dean Kiely (Ireland’s goalkeeping coach) 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.

‘The most important thing after that game was to back it up.

‘Because at that moment, as much as it is special, it doesn’t mean anything if you can’t go and put in some performances at your club, so that was what I was most focused on and I was happy that I’ve been able to perform quite well in my recent games.’