Fresh faces show some reasons to be cheerful in promising encounter
Rep of Ireland 0 Greece 1It’s a pity their manager so regularly professes to value results over performances because Ireland’s players might otherwise have left the field last night feeling vaguely satisfied with their work.
It was scarcely a flawless display, with a preventable goal conceded and none scored, despite a succession of decent chances, but there were distinct signs those representatives of the team’s next generation really can breathe new life into it.
Whether a line up like this would really cope against the Swedes is another question and it seems unlikely Giovanni Trapattoni will attempt to find out.
As tends to be the case when they are at home, it was Ireland who made the brighter start to the game and they might well have been ahead over the course of the opening few minutes ,with the Israeli referee, Eitan Shmuelevitz, waving away two claims from the locals for a penalty.
The first, like a third at the very end of the half was for a handball that, in truth, didn’t look intentional, although the earlier offender, Kostas Stafylidis, could still consider himself a little lucky to get away with the contact.
That was in the opening minute and by the fourth the crowd really had something to get worked up about with Shane Long’s pace enabling him to get the better of his opponent before he appeared to be nudged a couple of yards inside the box.
By the break, when he was replaced, Long was more sinning than sinned against, with a slightly reckless looking challenge on Panagiotis Tachtsidis earning him a yellow card, although, to be fair, the tackle was nothing by comparison with the one that brought Ciarán Clark his booking a few minutes later.
The difference being that there was some tangible benefit to the defender’s lunge into Jose Holebas, for the midfielder seemed set to launch a counter attack which would involve Ireland being badly outnumbered.
Holebas had already shown what a threat he could be with the 28-year-old scoring on the half hour when a neat piece of interplay involving Konstantinis Mitroglou and Giorgos Samaras on the edge of the box ended with a smart turn and shot to the bottom left corner.
It was a little harsh on the home defence and, in particular, David Forde, who had done well up until then. The goalkeeper had made one fine save from Sotiris Ninis and a couple of other solid interventions, while John O’Shea had done most in front of him to deal with the aerial threat faced by the home side.