Sunday 18 March 2018

Keane plays down pitch worry

THERE will be another factor in the game in Moscow this evening; the artificial pitch at the Luzhniki Stadium which the Irish players got a first taste of last night when they trained at the match venue, WRITES DANIEL McDONNELL

Within the group, they have a mixed experience of such surfaces. Shay Given said over the weekend that he doesn't believe they should be allowed for such critical matches.

Robbie Keane admitted that it was difficult for his old Spurs colleagues to get used to the surface in Switzerland ahead of their Champions League qualifier with Young Boys Berne 13 months ago. Spurs were shell-shocked and fell behind before, eventually, regaining their composure and doing enough to set up a second-leg victory.

Keane acknowledges that Ireland will have to be prepared for a culture shock, although his manager Giovanni Trapattoni was quick to stress that the Russians are all used to playing on grass regularly with their respective employers; the only Spartak Moscow player on show will be Aiden McGeady.

"It's certainly different," Keane said. "At Spurs, we played Young Boys and were 3-0 down after 20 minutes. We couldn't get used to the pace of the pitch.

"The only good thing about these pitches is that it's not like plastic pitches back home. They're not rock hard. It's almost half and half. You know, it's not one of those pitches where you might slide tackle and rip your legs open.

"In many respects, it's similar to what we play on. We need to straight away get any thoughts about the pitch out of our heads and think it's a normal game, on a normal pitch."

Irish Independent

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