Monday 21 January 2019

One shining light emerges as lacklustre Ireland are beaten in Turkey

Turkey 1 Ireland 0

Mehmet Topal of Turkey scores his side's first goal
Mehmet Topal of Turkey scores his side's first goal

Aidan Fitzmaurice in Turkey

A new formation for Ireland was unable to turn Martin O'Neill's side into a winning one as the Republic of Ireland went down 1-0 to Turkey in Antalya.

The sight of Declan Rice in an Ireland shirt at senior level is indeed a welcome one, but once again the lack of a goal threat or cutting edge up front points to the problems facing O'Neill in his bid to secure Euro 2020 qualification, Ireland without an attempt on target over a largely dull 90 minutes.

Five of the starting XI for Ireland were either making their debuts or winning only their second cap and though they succeeded in holding the Turks scoreless until Fenerbahce man Mehmet Topal scored, set up by a corner, on 51 minutes, the Republic can only hope that this experience will count for something down the road.

A pe-match glance at the world rankings suggested that Ireland would have the upper hand, Martin O'Neill's men seven places above Turkey in the FIFA rankings.

But once the game kicked off, it was Turkey who held, and retained, control. The Turks had possession of the ball for long, long spells in the first half, the only relief for a hard-worked Irish back three coming on 18 minutes when Scott Hogan beat the offside trap and bore down on goal, only to fire into the side netting.

Colin Doyle, ending a 10-year wait for his second senior cap, was by far the busier of the two keepers, though it could have been worse for the Bradford City man had the Turkish finishing been a bit more clinical.

O'Neill tried out that new formation, with the defensive trio of Duffy, Rice and Long, with Seamus Coleman and James McClean on the flanks but the lack of an attacking outlet will be a concern.

Turkey tried time and again to play their way through the away side.

In the first 18 minutes, three Turks (Yusuf Yazici, Hakan Calhanoglu and skipper Mehmet Topal) had chances, all off target, before Hogan issued that threat on the break.

Everton's Cenk Tosun was on target and forced a save from Doyle on 28 minutes, Duffy clearing up the rebound, while Doyle was needed again on 32 minutes to deny Yazici.

Home fans, and the Turkish players, grew frustrated with the physical side of the Irish game as the half wore on, McClean lucky to avoid a yellow card for a foul on Emre Akbaba while Alan Browne was indeed booked by the Slovenian referee for a challenge on Caglar Soyuncu just before half time.

Ireland were relieved to go into the break having not conceded but Turkey did break through six minutes into the second half, a short corner from Hakan Calhanoglu played to Yusuz Yazici, and his cross was finished by captain Topal.

The game began to lose shape once the flood of substitutions began, chances off the bench for rookies Matt Doherty and Alan Judge as well as veterans Shane Long, Ciaran Clark and David Meyler.

Meyler found himself in the referee's notebook on 82 minutes, for a foul on Yunus Malli, Turkey now very much in control.and the Hull man was then dispossessed by Yazici but he was unable to trouble Doyle, who played the full 90 minutes.

Positives for O'Neill will be that Declan Rice didn't look out of place, and players like Rice, Hogan, Maguire and Doherty all now have more international experience under their belts but it's still hard to see where the goals will come from.

IRELAND: Doyle (Bradford); Rice (West Ham), Duffy (Brighton), Long (Burnley); Coleman (Everton, cap), Hendrick (Burnley), Hourihane (Aston V), Browne (Preston), McClean (WBA); Hogan (Aston V), Maguire (Preston).

SUBS: Long (Southampton) for Maguire, 62; Doherty (Wolves) for Coleman, 62; Meyler (Hull) for Browne, 68; Clark (Newcastle) for Hourihane, 68; Horgan (Preston) for Hogan, 75; Judge (Brentford) for Hendrick, 80.

TURKEY: Babacan (Başakşehir), Gonul (Besiktas), Aziz (Galatasaray), Soyuncu (Freiburg), Kaldirim (Fenerbahce), Yokuslu (Trabzonspor), Yazici  (Trabzonspor), Akbaba (Analyaspor), Topal (Fenerbahce), Calhanoglu (AC Milan), Tosun (Everton)

SUBS: Unal (Villareal) for Tosun, 64. Malli (Wolfsburg) for Akbaba, 68; Kahveci (Başakşehir for Calhanoglu, 79; Ahyan (Fortuna Düsseldorf) for Aziz, 83; Potuk (Fenerbahce) forYazici, 86.

REFEREE: Slavko Vincic (Slovenia)

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