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Ireland 1 USSR 1: Match report and ratings as Ronnie's rocket lights up Irish

Ireland 1 USSR 1

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Republic of Ireland's Ronnie Whelan, hidden, is congratulated by team-mates Kevin Sheedy, left, John Aldridge, centre, and Ray Houghton after scoring his side's first goal. European Championship Finals 1988, Republic of Ireland v Soviet Union. Niedersachen Stadium, Hanover, Germany. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Republic of Ireland's Ronnie Whelan, hidden, is congratulated by team-mates Kevin Sheedy, left, John Aldridge, centre, and Ray Houghton after scoring his side's first goal. European Championship Finals 1988, Republic of Ireland v Soviet Union. Niedersachen Stadium, Hanover, Germany. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Republic of Ireland's Ronnie Whelan, hidden, is congratulated by team-mates Kevin Sheedy, left, John Aldridge, centre, and Ray Houghton after scoring his side's first goal. European Championship Finals 1988, Republic of Ireland v Soviet Union. Niedersachen Stadium, Hanover, Germany. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

LAST NIGHT the Republic of Ireland buried the idea that they are the Wimbledon of the European Championships. Three points from two games - the best goal of the competition and, without exaggeration, the best football that has been played so far.

Not a bad start for a team written off as outsiders, as the fairytale side who might cause an upset, but didn't really have any chance of making serious inroads against the best in Europe.

And what about Ronnie Whelan, for me the Man of the Match. It was on his shoulders that the responsibility in midfield fell after Paul McGrath had to withdraw. How magnificently he responded.

I knew that this match would be so different from the English game, but the way the Irish stepped up their game must have surprised everyone.

They played superb football, tremendous passing movements, great defending and if John Aldridge and Tony Galvin had managed a better first touch for those two great chances in the second-half, the Russians would have been well beaten.

Ireland deserved to win. Jack used the same tactics that he has in all of the games during the great run he has put together. The results that the Republic has achieved under Charlton put them in the position where confidence was sky high.

For a long time, the Russians did not know how to cope. They couldn't get forward in any numbers, and, with Kevin Moran and Mick McCarthy playing with such confidence, they looked less and less likely to score the more the game went on.

It was a terrible shame that Protasov's goal came the way it did. But the bounce of the ball, as much as anything else, beat a defence which had soaked up everything the Soviets could manage.

One thing is certain. Jack Charlton and this Irish team will concede nothing to the Dutch on Saturday. McGrath could be fit, and that would add a bit of strength. Jack will continue to play the same game, and that could very easily produce the point that we need to make it to the semi-finals.

Ruud Gullit is a great player, he proved that against England yesterday, but Van Basten would not have got those goals without the great man. And that is a lesson that Charlton will learn after watching the English game.

Van Basten is good, he has a great first touch, but without the supply that Gullit gave him, he won't score many goals. Don't be surprised if a fit McGrath gets a shadowing job on Gullit on Saturday.

I'm sure that most Irish people will be disappointed that we didn't get the two points, but at the start of this tournament we would have been very happy with three points from two games.

After the two results we have had, Holland won't present any serious threat to Jack and the lads. Any team that can string the results together that they have deserves to be respected. A draw against the Dutch is far from out of the question.

RATINGS

By Noel Dunne

PACKY BONNER

CERTAINLY complied with Jack Charlton's request to come off his line more, though his handling suffered slightly under pressure on occasions. Played relatively well and could not be faulted for the goal. RATING — 6

CHRIS HUGHTON

ANOTHER display to make one wonder how Hughton spent most of last season in the Tottenham reserves. Bright and breezy going forward and linked well with his former White Hart Lane colleague Tony Galvin. An early hiccup with pacey Protassov was not repeated. RATING — 7

KEVIN MORAN

POWERFUL in the tackle, brave and extremely mobile, Moran had another game of which he could be proud. Unlucky to be beaten to the bounce by Belanov for Protassov's goal. Pulled-off one brilliant tackle on Michailchenko in the second half. RATING — 8

MICK McCARTHY

WHAT a great man for the long throw-in! Mick was once again forceful in the air but occasionally lost his man — question marks on this score not only for the goal but also in the first half when Protassov left him standing to bring a good save from Bonner. RATING — 5

CHRIS MORRIS

THE Glasgow Celtic performer continues to look better with every performance. His tackling was solid, his positioning good and he nipped-in for a couple of valuable interceptions. Morris also uses the ball well. RATING — 8

RAY HOUGHTON

THREATENED to tear the Soviet defence apart on several occasions and certainly gave Demyenenko a rare old fright inside the first ten minutes when he made a glorious burst into the heart of the area and shot on target. Another excellent all round display. Rating: 8

KEVIN SHEEDY

ON this evidence, Kevin Sheedy is right ... he is, above all else, a central midfield player. Sheedy has sweet control in tight corners and weighs his passes beautifully. He is not adverse to the occasional shot and caused several anxious moments for the Soviets. RATING — 8

RONNIE WHELAN

WAS heading for the man of the match award even before that glorious goal. Whelan's instant vision and superbly quick delivery was matched only by his outstanding work-rate. Running, covering, passing, tackling and shooting, you name it, he can do it. RATING - 10

TONY GALVIN

THIS man has turned the clock right back in the finals. Galvin terrorised the Soviet defence with several swirling, arcing crosses and actually got onto the end (albeit unsuccessfully) of a couple of chances himself. Charlton's faith in him has been well placed. RATING — 8

FRANK STAPLETON

THIS was one of Frank's finest . . . another display of masterful touches, control and intense effort from the Irish skipper, who departed the scene with ten minutes remaining after appearing to aggravate a hamstring strain. RATING — 9

JOHN ALDRIDGE

THE agony goes on for the Liverpool striker, now an incredible 17 matches without a goal. And that statistic sadly dominates another fine and full-blooded performance by Aldridge after he blazed Galvin's pinpoint late cross just over the bar . . . but for that we would have won! RATING — 7

TONY CASCARINO

THE powerful Millwall striker got his fervent wish and joined the Euro finals fray as a sub in the late stages for Stapleton. Made an impression in the air and got a nice flick-on to McCarthy's late long throw. RATING - 6

Online Editors