IRELAND 2-1 MACEDONIA
We won!! Now we are tied with Russia and Slovakia on 10 points in Group B, and leading based off of goal differential. I just have a few key points after watching a replay of the match:
♣Our starting lineup looked very interesting in that many of the original or should be starters were out with injury, so some of the starters against Macedonia are people who normally wouldn’t be getting that much playing time. The Starting lineup was:
Kilbane, Dunne, O’Dea, Foley
Duff, Gibson, Whelan, McGeady
While the strikers and midfield looked strong and threatening, I was curious to see how Kilbane, Foley, O’Dea, and Dunne would play together and be able to get the job done. Macedonia isn’t a powerhouse, but they do have the ability to cause some chaos and disrupt plans, as I brought up in my previous post.
If there was a way to start a game, Ireland found it. Or was at least very close to achieving it. Before two minutes were off the clock, we had the lead. McGeady took a pass, faked taking the ball wide, brought it in and fired a curling shot off the keeper’s hands and into the bottom left corner. One heck of a way to score your first goal for your country. The goalie probably should’ve done better with the shot, but a great start to the night for Ireland.
♣Duff and McGeady looked threatening with many of their touches going forward. Duff made great runs toward the goal from the right, and McGeady was creative and quick moving around on the left. This is the first time both of them have been playing on opposite wings, and wowzers. They were tearing the defense to pieces and forcing Macedonia to bring their midfielders back to play more in their own half. In other games Duff or McGeady have been the only creative force going forward, so the defense was able to shift their weight to that side. But, with both sides being threatening, the defense was not able to lean towards one side, but worry about both. Funny comment about Duff too by one of the announcers, who said “looks like someone has given Duff some extra strength batteries, he’s all over the pitch.”
♣ Hopefully Doyle isn’t hurt too bad or out for too long. He went off in the 15th or 16th minute, on what looked like a knee or ankle injury. I didn’t see it, but heard the announcers saying that he landed awkwardly on his left leg on one of the corners, tried to run it off, but was unable to. At least we don’t have to worry about our backup strikers, as Shane Long and Walters are both great to have off the bench.
♣ Kaptain Keane scores again!! A free kick just outside the box was thumped in by Gibson, after McGeady faked as though he was going to take it. Due to the thunderous shot the goaltender (who either has brick hands or pre game jitters in the 20th minute) was unable to handle he shot, which bounced off his hands and rolled out in front of him. Who else was there, but Mr. Robbie Keane who tucked it away for the goal and a 2-0 lead.
♣Our passing game WAS ON! Wow… we forgot about long balls, and in doing so we looked great on the pitch. If you can watch the game, try to watch around the 23rd or 24th minute. In that time period Ireland strung together pass after pass after pass, and even threw in a meg through a Macedonia defender’s wickets. The long balls were better when we didn’t have a strong midfield to work with, and just tried over and over again to get the ball to Keane. But now, we have a strong midfield and can get things done through it. Gibson and Whelan were terrific in the passing game, and mixed in well with our splendid wingers.
♣ We did let up slightly after 30 minutes of playing, as Macedonia has started to get further and further into our side of the pitch. Even though we had more control of the ball for the first half, we did slow down the pace of the game, which I think was more beneficial to Macedonia. We were running around them and scoring goals, creating pressure, and making chances. The, we let up, didn’t make as many runs, and were ultimately punished by doing that. Macedonia scored right before the end of the half, as Dunne’s match fitness was tested, and let’s just say he has some work to do.
♣ Shane Long is one tough dude. A Macedonian defender thought it would be smart to try and kick Long in the side of the head, and somehow only get a yellow card for that. Think about De Jong’s tackle in the World Cup on Alsonso, except the face. And Long got up, and in a very angry mood.
♣ Macedonia looked more threatening and started to test our defense a lot more in the second half, just as they were for the ten minutes prior to the halftime break. The fans started to get on the players’ backs for misplaced passes and the change in momentum, with sighs and boos coming after some lacking passes and exchanges.
♣ But then McGeady and Duff got the fans cheering again with our closest chance of the second half. McGeady made a few runs to the Macedonian defense, and after gathering a blocked shot, ran down the side of the box and crossed it into Duff. Duff took it off the bounce and shot it across the face of the goal, only to miss by a few inches. This chance started to wake up the Irish attack a little more, with a few half chances here and there.
♣ Westwood saved us from having to go home with only a point. 1 on 1 with the Macedonian goal scorer and came up big in blocking the shot and saving the day. We deserved all 3 points, but did almost blow it. We can’t sit back after 30 minutes of playing when there’s still 2/3rds of the game left to play. Westwood stepped up and looks like a quality backup to Given and the future goalie once Shay retires. WESTWOOD WAS CLUTCH!!
♣ Should of been two Macedonian players sent off, but weren’t. The ref was decent but definitely missed some big calls. First call was when Long got kicked in the head, which should have been a straight red. Also, Long pulls a move past a defender, who is on a yellow, who then pulls down Long and makes it seem like he’s injured. Should have been a second yellow, but due to a “head injury” the ref let the defender go. Bull Shit.
♣ Ireland looked great in the closing minutes, with a few close chances just missing a finishing touch. Also great to see McCarthy get some time on the pitch, and to come on in the last few minutes to a roaring ovation must be nice too. Another young blood looking to make an impact in the squad sooner rather than later. Looked good on the pitch, looked strong on the ball and in some tackles, and even had a shot that was blocked.
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