Tuesday 21 November 2017

Ireland flatter to deceive


DION FANNING at the Aviva Stadium

Ireland got three points in the manner most people had expected at the Aviva last night, but it is always a disappointment how underwhelming Giovanni Trapattoni's side can be.

Nobody anticipated the show which the manager always reminds us is available at La Scala, but when Ireland led by two goals after 21 minutes, there was some hope that the night might be enjoyable.

No attendance was announced during the game by the FAI but the empty seats told the story, not only of this side's lack of entertainment or the FAI's pricing plan, but of a country. This team have an outstanding chance of qualifying for the European Championships and yet they could manage to add to the sense of despondency every step of the way.

Trapattoni saw it differently. This was a performance, he said, of the utmost professionalism. The manager was happy.

"I have three reasons to be happy," he said. "The three points, the performance of the team overall and of some specific players, and the third, equally important, is that the selection of Foley, O'Dea and Gibson have been justified. I am happy about my choices."

In fact, Trapattoni couldn't stop finding reasons to be happy. Aiden McGeady, who scored his first goal for his country, was the best player on the pitch, Trapattoni claimed, something which might be disputed by one or two Macedonians.

Ireland allowed them to play in the second half but in the first the game was just as Trapattoni saw it.

Ireland played some expansive football, worked hard to win the ball and there was nothing to complain about in the performances of the rookies Keiren Westwood, Kevin Foley and Darren O'Dea.

In the final minutes, Trapattoni also introduced James McCarthy to a roar that was probably heard in Scotland

Ireland had walked out last night knowing that Russia had, unlike Trapattoni's team, failed to win in Yerevan. The opportunity was there and this team took it, but only just and only thanks to a fine save from Westwood from the Macedonian goalscorer Ivan Trickovksi 15 minutes from the end.

By that stage Ireland were ragged. They had lost Kevin Doyle to a medial ligament injury, which will have caused concern for the current Irish manager as well as one of his predecessors. Trapattoni suggested last night that he could be out for one or two months, which means the rest of the season.

In the wake of his injury, Ireland were forced to play with 10 men for a spell as Macedonia kept the ball in play. On the sideline, Trapattoni fumed, stormed onto the pitch briefly and grabbed a linesman by the shoulders without any repercussions. Steve Staunton, sent off once for kicking a water bottle, might have wondered about the breaks.

Doyle will be a doubt for the game in Skopje but Ireland will definitely be without Richard Dunne, who was booked last night when he pulled down Goran Pandev, a final demonstration of his lack of match fitness.

Trapattoni won't care. Ireland are level on points with Slovakia, who still have to come to Dublin, and Russia, who have already demonstrated that there is nothing to worry about here.

Ireland will be more concerned about their trip to Skopje in June. Yet the manager will relish it. Already there are no expectations and Ireland have shown they are at their best when surpassing those.

Sunday Indo Sport

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