Thursday 19 October 2017

Impressive Ireland return to winning ways against Uruguay ahead of crucial Austria clash

Republic of Ireland 3 Uruguay 1

James McClean of Republic of Ireland shoots to score his sides third goal, depite the attentions of Sebastian Coates of Uruguay during the international friendly match between Republic of Ireland and Uruguay at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile
James McClean of Republic of Ireland shoots to score his sides third goal, depite the attentions of Sebastian Coates of Uruguay during the international friendly match between Republic of Ireland and Uruguay at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile

John Brennan

Ireland head into a week of serious preparations for their vital World Cup qualifier against Austria next Sunday on the back of this decent win over Uruguay at the Aviva Stadium.

Fine finishing from  Jon Walters and James McClean, on other side of a scuffed effort from Cyrus Christie, was enough to see off the technically gifted South Americans, yet who were surprisingly vulnerable in defence.

But the biggest news from an Irish perspective is that Martin O'Neill may spend this week fending off questions about his goalkeeper for the Austria match.

Darren Randolph started this game, but was clearly at fault for Uruguay's 37th minute goal, a header from Jose Gimenez of Atletico Madrid off a well-taken free-kick.

But Randolph came for the ball and made the cardinal error of missing it completely with his attempted punch.

Perhaps O'Neill had planned to rotate his goalkeepers anyway, but he brought Keiren Westwood on at half-time and the Sheffield Wednesday man made a few good stops and one great one to prevent Matias Vecino converting a header.

Westwood may now be in pole position to start next Sunday in a game where a win would do so much to propel the Boys in Green towards a place at the 2018 World Cup.

Walters got Ireland off to a cracking start in the 28th minute when some of that Uruguayan vulnerability at the back allowed him to swivel 20 yards out and smash a shot to the roof of the visitors' net.

The Caceres goal set Ireland back a bit, but the second half display of O'Neill's team was much better with Christie putting his team ahead with a rather tame shot. A diving Uruguayan defender blocked the eye-line of 'keeper Esteban Conde and the ball rolled beyond him for an Irish lead.

But there was now doubting the merit of McClean's 77th minute strike, which will surely be a contender for Ireland's Goal of the Year.

The Derryman took a pass from Robbie Brady in his stride, skipped beyond the last defender and then arrowed a cracking shot beyond Conde to the corner of the net. It was a belter of a goal that sent the poor Bank Holiday crowd home happy.

And it sealed a win that will leave all in the Irish camp in a good mood as the showdown with the Austrians nears.

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