Doyle lights the fuse but no fireworks for Ireland
AN interesting day in Group B of the Euro 2012 qualifiers, although that revolved around events in Moscow. In Dublin, it was a routine enough evening.
Sure, a cracking strike from Andorra's Christian Martinez came as a rude surprise for punters who had banked on an Irish clean sheet, but the real turn-up on the day was Slovakia's win in Russia, which adds an intriguing element to the qualification race at this early stage.
Ireland's win here leaves them in top spot, and their next round of games brings the under-pressure Russians to the Aviva Stadium.
"I wasn't that surprised when I heard, because Slovakia scored in the 90th minute last week and that is good for morale," observed Giovanni Trapattoni. "I think Russia and Slovakia will be competing with us at the top of the table."
It's doubtful that Trapattoni will have learned much about what will be required in next month's double-header with the top seeds from the evidence of this exercise.
He already knew that Aiden McGeady can torment inferior opposition, and that his strikers are capable of producing a special goal from their repertoire. Unlocking the Russians will present an entirely different kind of test.
As it happened, Trapattoni's reasoning in selecting the team for Friday's win in Yerevan ended up causing more controversy yesterday than this game, after a remarkable outburst from Darron Gibson which emerged in the morning.
In the absence of Keith Andrews, the Manchester United man has been overtaken by Paul Green for this double-header, with the Irish boss making it apparent that workrate was a key aspect in the decision both before and after the hard-fought Armenian success.
Gibson was quoted in his native 'Derry Journal', stating that Trapattoni was "having a laugh" by suggesting that the midfielder needed to move away from Old Trafford to develop a bit more hunger and bite -- attributes which the Italian feels the 22-year-old is missing due to United's dominance in the majority of their games.
"If Trapattoni wants me to move on from a club like Manchester United to better my game, move to somewhere like Stoke where I'll get more games, but have little chance of winning anything, then I just don't know," he said.
"At what club, other than Manchester United, could I go to improve my game?" If he's trying to say that I should move somewhere like Stoke City and change my game to winning tackles and not winning games, then he's having a laugh.
"I have good relationship with Trapattoni. We haven't fallen out in anyway. I just think I haven't been playing (for Ireland) because I haven't been playing regularly at club level.
"I've proven what I can do with my performances at Manchester United last season. I will be very disappointed if I don't play against Andorra. I wasn't surprised I didn't play against Armenia, but I was disappointed not to get on."
Trapattoni didn't appear to be aware of Gibson's comments when the matter was brought up afterwards, instead delivering a lengthy response which came around to the same conclusion -- that the talented ball player had to develop his ability to win the ball.
The youngster was introduced on this evening, however, summoned into the fray with half an hour remaining, with Ireland two goals to the good and comfortably in control.
He demonstrated a decent range of passing, yet it was the wrong kind of encounter for any fringe player to impress.
From the outset, it was apparent that Ireland would be collecting the three points. Trapattoni had implored his players to go for the jugular early, and they burst out with purpose.
They started at a high tempo, giving the poor Andorrans little chance to grow into the game.
Aiden McGeady, short of horsepower on Friday after an interrupted summer, looked like a Ferrari in the opening stages as he tore his marker, Jordi Escura, to shreds. Ireland pressed and were confident enough to send numbers forward, with Andorra content to defend deeply.
However, their attempts to frustrate were short-lived. McGeady twisted and turned to force a 14th-minute corner which Liam Lawrence delivered perfectly onto the head of the in-rushing Kevin Kilbane. A nice touch that such a loyal servant should grab the honour of the first Irish international goal at the new stadium.
A snapshot from Sergi Moreno slipped out of Shay Given's fingers to give the visitors a corner almost immediately but, although the Irish were occasionally guilty of heavy touches, they could afford them, given the lack of quality in opposition.
The application was generally good from the hosts. Another McGeady turn set off a move that ended up with Lawrence chipping wide of Josep Antoni Gomes.
Visiting skipper Ildefons Lima, who angered the natives with a clumsy foul on Doyle, was then cautioned for blocking Lawrence's advance with his hand as an example of some desperate defending.
However, the mountain nation could do little about Ireland's second, with Doyle wriggling into space and launching a left-footed, 25-yard piledriver that soared into the top left corner. A stunning strike.
All was good in Ireland's world, as they pinged the ball around reasonably well for a spell, with central midfielders Glenn Whelan and Green both involved.
Alas, the calm was interrupted by a lapse that shocked Trapattoni.
Martinez deserves credit for an outstanding right-foot volley that sailed past Given to reduce the deficit, but the Irish manager will ask why his players were so slow to react to the Andorran's run from midfield, after Richard Dunne had routinely steered a header away from Marc Pujol.
"We lost concentration," said Trap later, before paying credit to the quality of the strike, recalling that he himself had pinged in an identical effort for his country in his playing days.
He won't have been too impressed by a tardy resumption either, until Ireland restored their cushion with a fine team move in the 58th minute. McGeady was the creator, cutting inside and combining with Green and Doyle before slipping through the previously frustrated Keane, who finished with incredible confidence given his travails in Yerevan.
"I congratulated Aiden after, because he was one of the best on the pitch," said Trapattoni. "He watched the DVD in the morning and understood the positions we wanted him to go into."
Whelan, on a yellow, was withdrawn with next month's showdown with Russia in mind. It was a good time to bring him ashore, with tensions flaring on the pitch after what the Irish considered to be some theatrics from the minnows.
Stephen Kelly and Andy Keogh were later introduced, with Friday's hero Keith Fahey surprisingly deprived of a chance to further demonstrate his claims.
On the pitch, Ireland deprived themselves of the opportunity to boost the goal difference, with McGeady guilty of some poor decisions in the final third, and Doyle and Lawrence squandering half-chances.
There was no sense of panic, though. For now, that feeling can belong to the Russians.
Ireland -- Given, O'Shea (Kelly 75), Dunne, St Ledger, Kilbane; Lawrence, Green, Whelan (Gibson 60), McGeady; Keane, Doyle (Keogh 83)
Andorra -- Gomes, Escura, Silva, Lima, Bernaus; Martinez, Ayala (Andorra 71), Vieira, Moreno (Jimenez 59); Pujol; Gomez
Ref -- L Trattou (Cyprus).