Spanish ref used to courting controversy
He has taken charge of one of the most closely scrutinised games on the planet, El Clasico, so Spanish referee José María Sánchez can probably cope with a World Cup qualifier in Dublin.
He makes a return visit to Dublin tomorrow to take charge of the game at home to Serbia: he was the fourth official for Ireland’s 1-1 draw at home to Austria in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers. A familiar match official in Spain, he was dropped from the La Liga refereeing panel for a spell after some heavy criticism for his performance in a controversial 3-2 win for Barcelona away to Real Betis last year, where he sent off two players, booked seven more and also refused to award a clear penalty to Lionel Messi.
“Criticism is in our DNA. I have been doing this for 18 years, it’s normal,” he said afterwards.
Venue good sign for Crawford’s Under-21s
Ireland’s Under-21 side enjoyed a perfect start to their Euro qualifying campaign and the venue for tomorrow’s clash with the group’s bottom side, Luxembourg, is a good omen as UCD (v Dudelange, 2015) and Bohemians (also v Dudelange, last July) both won at the Stade Jos Nosbaum.
Bohs man Ross Tierney, who starred in their Europa Conference League win there, is also confident he’s done enough with a stunning display away to Bosnia to keep his place in Jim Crawford’s side. The game is also a sort of homecoming for Ryan Johansson, who made his competitive U-21 debut in the win over Bosnia. He spent four years in the underage set-up of his native Luxembourg before defecting to Ireland.
McClean close to the Irish top ten
James McClean could struggle to keep his place in the Ireland side after a sub-par display in the draw with Azerbaijan but featuring in the four remaining qualifiers (plus that Qatar game) must be a target for the Wigan Athletic player.
Now on 84 caps, if he features in the next five games, he will move into the top ten in Ireland’s all-time appearance record. Tony Cascarino is tenth with his tally of 88.
Number of the day – 7: The goals scored by Aleksandar Mitrovic in his last five games. An impressive total of 43 goals in 65 caps makes him the all-time top scorer for Serbia or Yugoslavia in all its previous guises.
On this day: In 2008, Glenn Whelan got the winner for Ireland in a 2-1 defeat ‘away’ to Georgia, in Mainz, Giovanni Trapattoni’s first competitive game as Ireland manager.