Wednesday 22 November 2017

'I found it hard to sleep, it kept going over in my head': Clark reveals own goal torment

Damian Spellman

Luckless Ciaran Clark endured a sleepless night after his own goal denied the Republic of Ireland a winning start to their Euro 2016 campaign.

However, the 26-year-old Aston Villa defender is refusing to dwell on his disappointment as he prepares for a showdown with Belgium hitman Romelu Lukaku.

Ireland were leading Sweden 1-0 at the Stade de France on Monday evening when Clark could only help Zlatan Ibrahimovic's cross into his own net to hand the Swedes a point they barely deserved.

He said: "Obviously it's disappointing for me personally. It's never nice to be the one the ball comes off and goes in.

"We were quite comfortable in the game, we were on top and I don't think we deserved to come away with a draw and with the one point, we deserved all three.

"I found it hard to sleep after the game, to be honest, it kept going over in my head, but the next day you have just got to wake up and try to push that to one side and focus on the next game, which is what I have done.

"It's one of those things. You think about it that night and like I said, I found it hard to sleep after the game."

For all Clark's unwitting intervention cost his side dearly, there have been no recriminations within the camp with his team-mates all aware he had to do something with Sebastian Larsson ready to pounce behind him had he not attempted to clear the ball.

He said: "All the lads have said the same, there is nothing I could have done at the time, I don't think. It's a natural reaction for a defender to try to defend the ball from going in the goal.

"It's one of those things. There was a guy behind me and I just tried to get it out the way, and unfortunately it went in the goal."

Clark will hope for a chance to make amends - manager Martin O'Neill has already told him to focus on what he did well against Sweden - when the Republic meet Belgium in Bordeaux on Saturday.

That could pitch him into battle with Everton striker Lukaku, whose potency will come as no surprise.

He said: "He's a top, top individual player. He's got power, pace and he's a good finisher, which he has shown. But they have got a number of top players and we'll be looking at them and paying attention to them.

"But I think we have got to pay attention and focus on ourselves as well because we have got top-class players in the squad who can cause them problems."

Meanwhile, Clark will have a new club manager when he returns from the tournament with Roberto Di Matteo having taken over at Villa Park.

The Italian has reportedly contacted some of his players by Face Time since his appointment, but Clark revealed he has had only a good old-fashioned telephone call.

He said: "I didn't get a Face Time, I got a call from him. It was only a brief phone call just wishing me all the best for the tournament. Obviously we'll speak after the tournament has finished."

Press Association

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