Tuesday 6 December 2016

'I'll get myself into trouble if I say anything' - Shane Long fumes after Belgium defeat

Damian Spellman

Published 19/06/2016 | 11:26

18 June 2016; Shane Long of Republic of Ireland in action against Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Alderweireld of Belgium during the UEFA Euro 2016 Group E match between Belgium and Republic of Ireland at Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux in Bordeaux, France. Photo by David Maher / Sportsfile.
18 June 2016; Shane Long of Republic of Ireland in action against Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Alderweireld of Belgium during the UEFA Euro 2016 Group E match between Belgium and Republic of Ireland at Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux in Bordeaux, France. Photo by David Maher / Sportsfile.

Shane Long left Bordeaux fuming after being denied a penalty which might have changed the course of the Republic of Ireland's Euro 2016 campaign.

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Ireland were on the attack when the Southampton appeared to take a boot in the face as he and defenders Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Alderweireld challenged for Robbie Brady's inviting free-kick inside the Belgium penalty area.

Referee Cuneyt Cakir was unmoved as Long went to ground clutching his head convinced the official could only point to the spot, and worse was to follow when the Belgians broke at pace and Romelu Lukaku fired them into a 48th-minute lead.

Choosing his words carefully afterwards, the Ireland striker said: "I can't really say what I really want to say because I'll probably get myself in trouble.

"It's just disappointing. Anywhere else on the pitch you might get a free-kick. The fact that they broke and scored as well makes it a little bit harder to take.

"He [the referee] obviously thought there was nothing there. He must have thought I was diving or something. I can't really say what he was thinking because the pictures speak for themselves."

Republic boss Martin O'Neill later admitted that incident could have been pivotal in the game as a chance for his side to take the lead was denied them before the dose was doubled by Lukaku's strike.

In the event, Belgium ran out comfortable 3-0 winners, Axel Witsel extending their lead with 61 minutes gone before Lukaku helped himself to a second 20 minutes from time with Ireland having lost their shape as they attempted to rescue the game.

They now face the task of having to beat Italy, who have already guaranteed top spot in Group E with two wins out of two, in their final game in Lille on Wednesday night if they are to stand a chance of progressing.

Long said: "We'll move on. It's a tough result to take at the moment but we'll approach this Italy game now and we need to win.

"It's all or nothing at this stage. I think we can beat them. We've got a good record against the big teams - obviously not today.

"We've got a good history against Italy as well and hopefully they rest a few players. We will go out and try to cause an upset. It would be amazing to go through after beating Italy on four points.

"That's what we have to aim for - nothing less will do."

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