Sunday 16 December 2018

Goal-scorers needed and fans not happy - Five talking points after forgettable stalemate

15 November 2018; Jeff Hendrick of Republic of Ireland in action against George Saville of Northern Ireland during the International Friendly match between Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
15 November 2018; Jeff Hendrick of Republic of Ireland in action against George Saville of Northern Ireland during the International Friendly match between Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Stephen Looney

Here are five talking points after Northern Ireland held the Republic of Ireland to a 0-0 draw at the Aviva Stadium tonight.

WE'VE COME A LONG WAY, BABY

There was an edge between both sets of fans, but not the bile witnessed during THAT notorious 1-1 draw in Belfast twenty-five years ago.

James McClean was the pantomime villain for the travelling support, Kyle Lafferty for the home fans, anthems were booed but mercifully there was no hint of menace throughout the game.

HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO

Both teams desperately need goalscorers, having drawn four blanks each in their last seven games since the respective World Cup play-offs twelve months ago.

Martin O'Neill will hope Michael Obafemi can be the panacea, while Michael O'Neill's boys wasted two gilt-edged chances to score through wingers Gavin Whyte and his replacement Jordan Jones.

STYLE OVER SUBSTANCE?

Martin O'Neill's critics have pointed to Michael O'Neill's perceived expansive style of play in recent years, with more than an element of envy.

There was little of that on display tonight in a forgettable stalemate that was roundly booed by a disappointed Aviva Stadium on the final whistle.

MORE PRACTICE NEEDED

Northern Ireland were poor from set pieces, with Steven Davis, George Saville then Michael Smith all fluffing their lines, while dead ball deliveries from Seamus Coleman and Robbie Brady were only slightly more threatening.

With margins so tight in international football for both Irish teams, set pieces could prove the difference between success and failure, and both teams need to improve.

NO MORE PLEASE, OUR NATIONS HAVE SUFFERED ENOUGH

Never mind the political and security headaches this fixture has caused over the decades, the standard of football on show – particularly after the break – was underwhelming.

Apart from a thawing in relations between the two associations of late there was very little attractive about this contest from a footballing perspective, as evidenced by a two-thirds full Aviva Stadium.

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