IRELAND 3 WALES 0
Well, well, well. What a beautiful way to open the new year in international football! Also a great start to the Carling Nations Cup, with some old and new faces mixing it together to create one of the finer games we have played recently.
Trapp started out in a 4-4-2 formation, that looked like this:
O’SHEA- DUNNE- ST. LEDGER- CLARK
COLEMAN- WHELAN- GIBSON- DUFF
Only real surprise with the lineup was the omission of Robbie Keane, but that was due to a calf injury he picked up over the weekend. I was excited to see Clark and Coleman get starts since they are both rising young talents and see how the central midfield combo of Whelan and Gibson would perform. Also nice to see Walters get a chance to start and show what he has up front, essentially as part of the who will take Keane’s place once he retires from international football.
Wales started out in a 4-3-3 which was without two of their bigger stars, Craig Bellamy and Gareth Bale.
Once the National Anthems were done and the game began, it went a little like this:
We started out well, putting pressure on Wales and keeping the ball in their half of the pitch for the first few minutes with Walters gaining a free kick only a little over a minute in. The ensuing free kick from Duff rebounded back to Whelan who nearly chipped the keeper. After some good crosses from Duff and Coleman, Duff almost scored on a cross that skimmed off the post. Duff looked good on the left side often creating attacking chances both early on and throughout the game. Same can be said about Walters who mixed well with Duff and the rest of the midfielders. We had another free kick in a dangerous area thanks to a high boot that almost got Coleman in the face, but Gibson shot high on the ensuing free kick. Wales started to try and attack but was thwarted by our defense in the teen minutes of the game, with Given not really having to much of anything aside from the occasional back pass and catching a poor cross.
Right around 20 minutes Wales started to attack a little more, looking slightly more threatening with the ball, but still not getting too close. The Eirish had a decent counter with some good passing between Gibson, Duff, Coleman and Doyle, but a bad touch from Doyle ended the threat. The middle part of the first half didn’t involve any real big threats, just a penalty claim by Wales that O’Shea brought down a striker, and a threatening cross by Gibson, but amounted to nothing. Ireland was trying to play the long balls, which of course amounted to nothing aside from giving the ball to Wales.
Doyle had another chance but miss-hit the ball and shot it right at the Welsh keeper. Coleman also won a free kick on the right side, which almost resulted in a goal as Coleman took a Gibson pass and chipped it to Clark, who headed it past the wrong side of the near post. After that the pace slowed up a bit in the game right before the end of the half, with Wales’ first shot coming in the 45th minutes, but Shay did well to stop it and prevent Wales from taking the lead right before half.
The start of the second half began with Shane Long coming on for Doyle, who had an okay first half. A few shots and attacking play from Doyle, but I guess he can’t make end an undefeated season every game like he did in the previous weekend. =) Second half began with Wales kicking off, and was a defensive game for the first 5 minutes or so. Walters made space for himself after a good run and pass by Duff, but was only able to muster a hard shot straight at the keeper. Another run by Duff almost led to the first goal of the game, as he weaved in between the Welsh defense and then laid the ball off to Shane Long, who had plenty of space but shot the ball over the net sadly enough. A little entertainment was thrown into the game, as some drunken hooligans ran around on the pitch, probably after a few too many pints of Guinness. The game continued however, and Whelan left a beautiful through ball for Duff, who was all alone in front of the goal, to slip and fire it right at the goalie…. again. It seemed as though our offense only knew of two ways to shoot- over the goal or directly at the goalie!!
Keith Fahey came on for Seamus Coleman in the 58th minute, marking the end of Coleman’s first cap for Ireland. The run of play was all Ireland though, and it was only a little while before we would break through… and break through we did. To start the scoring was Darron Gibson, and what a way to start the scoring. Gibson took a pass about 28 yards out, dribbled up a few and then struck a beauty into the side netting, marking his first Irish goal in style!! 1-0 IRISH!!!
Wales took their second shot of the game but fired wide in the 65th minute, and gave Shay little trouble in the net. A minute later however, Ireland struck again. Walters pressured a Welsh defender in the box and forced a turnover in a bad place for Wales, then passed it to the top of the box, where Shane Long drew all the defenders with a fake shot and left it for Duff. Unlike his first chance earlier in the half, Duff put this one in the back of the net. It was a nice welcome back for Duff, who has missed a lot of games due to injury. Andy Keogh came on soon after for Duff, who had appeared in his 86th cap for Ireland.
Wales then had three corners in a row with which they did nothing, except for the last one in which they fired a shot that bounced around the top of the box and was then cleared by an Irish defender. Paul Green came on for Glen Whelan in the 75th minute, ending a great night for Whelan. Marc Wilson came on for Gibson in the 80th minute, ending a wonderful display from Gibson, which included his first goal. That concluded the night of the Gibson-Whelan midfield, and one that I hope to see working together a lot more. The last 10 or so minutes of the match were when most of the substitutions were made for both teams, just trying to get some minutes for the bench players or those trying to show off what they have to make the team for future call ups.
Keith Fahey put the icing on the cake with a free kick goal that caught the keeper off guard, bending it around the wall from 20 yards out in the 83rd minute. It was the last bite of a delicious potato that was the Irish performance. The second half was a a lot better for us not only due to the offensive strikes but for our defense too, as they never gave Wales a chance to get into the game at all. Also, it was very nice to see us NOT use many long balls in the second half, and keep the ball on the ground and work the ball from our defense through the midfield and then on to the strikers. See what happens when we don’t use long balls? WE SCORE AND PLAY A WHOLE LOT BETTER!!! Just look at how we played in each half:
1st half- use of long ball, individual efforts, no goals and some chances for Wales
2nd half- no use of long ball, shorter quicker passes, more team unity, 3 goals, and maybe one chance for Wales (I’ll be nice since this was a friendly)
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