Ireland edge out Poland
Published 06/02/2013 | 23:07
Ciaran Clark and Wes Hoolahan each scored their first senior international goals as Ireland claimed a hard-fought 2-0 friendly victory over Poland.
The Aston Villa defender's 35th-minute strike and the Norwich midfielder's effort 14 minutes from time were enough to end a run of two successive defeats at the Aviva Stadium.
However, Ireland had to defend tenaciously, particularly during the first half, and keeper David Forde made a series of important saves to deny dangerous striker Robert Lewandowski.
John O'Shea and Glenn Whelan were the only members of the initial XI to have started a game at last summer's European Championships - and accordingly, striker Conor Sammon was handed a senior debut while young wingers Robbie Brady and James McClean were given chances.
However, it was 33-year-old goalkeeper Forde who had the chance to shine during the first half. Poland were simply too slick for Ireland in the middle of the field as Jakub Blaszczykowski and Daniel Lukasic provided the ammunition for Borussia Dortmund striker Lewandowski to threaten repeatedly.
Forde survived an early scare when he scuffed a clearance straight to Ludovic Obraniak and looked on gratefully as full-back Paul McShane deflected the ensuing shot wide. But from then on he turned in an assured display, blocking a Lewandowski shot with his legs.
The hosts took a shock lead after Clark climbed well to meet a left-wing corner. Although keeper Artur Boruc palmed away his initial effort, the ball fell to the defender once again in the midst of a goalmouth melee and he drilled a low shot into the bottom corner.
Within three minutes of the restart, James McCarthy sent a side-footed effort towards goal, only for substitute keeper Wojciech Szczesny to make a fine fingertip save. Just after the hour mark and defender Damien Perquis sliced McClean's cross straight to Sammon. He homed in on goal, but Szczesny pounced to intercept.
Poland could have dragged themselves back into the game two minutes later when Arkadiusz Milik worked his way into a promising position inside the Ireland penalty area. However, the substitute tried too many dummies as he tried to tee himself up and slipped and fell over.
The miss proved costly with 14 minutes remaining when substitute Jeff Hendrick crossed for Hoolahan, who controlled the ball on his chest before volleying past the helpless Szczesny.
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