Sunday 17 December 2017

Robbie Keane: Young players will learn from Spanish lesson

Robbie Keane in action against Spain
Robbie Keane in action against Spain

Damian Spellman in New York

ROBBIE KEANE has told emerging Republic of Ireland stars James McCarthy and Jeff Hendrick not to worry too much about a testing 90 minutes in New York.

The 22-year-old Wigan midfielder and his Derby sidekick, who is a year younger, found themselves thrust into battle which Spain's Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Andres Iniesta at Yankee Stadium during the early hours of this morning.

It was a battle they simply could not win despite their tireless efforts to stem the flow, but Keane has insisted they should not be hard on themselves.

He said: "It's very difficult. You can't judge yourself on these games because you don't have possession of the ball.

"In terms of work-rate and showing a lot of energy, you can't fault them - you couldn't fault anybody for that.

"But in terms of keeping the ball, it's almost impossible because you are playing against a team that just keeps the ball and it is very hard to get it from them."

Spain ultimately ran out 2-0 winners, but not without a good deal of huffing and puffing and a measure of good fortune thrown in.

They could have been out of sight given the possession they had, but had to wait until the 69th-minute for substitute Roberto Soldado to volley them in front.

However, they lived dangerously thereafter with Ireland substitute James McClean forcing Iker Casillas, who had replaced Victor Valdes after 59 minutes, to make an instinctive save 10 minutes from time.

From the resulting corner, Casillas had to react smartly once again to turn Stephen Kelly's near-post header on to the crossbar, but he could do nothing to prevent defender Sean St Ledger from sliding home the rebound, only for a offside flag to come to the keeper's rescue.

The Republic's disappointment was complete when Juan Mata added a second goal two minutes from time, although Keane, who played in the 4-0 defeat by Vicente Del Bosque's men at the Euro 2012 finals in Poland last summer, was philosophical in defeat.

He said: "If they have that much possession, they are going to have chances. It's just a matter of time.

"It was a shame when they did score, but it's one of those things. The 'equaliser' - I think it was just offside, but I think we can take more positives from this game, certainly than from the one a year ago.

"It was a good experience for a lot of the younger players. The lads conducted themselves very well. They showed a lot of energy.

"We were playing against the best team in the world, so at times, it's frustrating because you can't get the ball from them.

"But in terms of attitude and the way we worked for each other, it was very, very good, so we can take a lot of positives from it."

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