Players cry foul over critical decisions


MATCH REACTION:ON THE countless sheets of paper they hand out to the media after games like this the statistics seemed to pile up against them, but the Irish left the Municipal Stadium in Poznan last night nursing a clear sense of grievance with major decisions, they believed, contributing to a defeat that leaves them chasing big results if they are to have any chance of qualification to the knock-out round.

Stephen Ward was adamant as he left the ground that he had been fouled as he sought to make a clearance that flew to Nikica Jelavic, who promptly scored.

And Robbie Keane was clearly still angry at being refused a second-half penalty that might have sparked a second half revival.

For Ward, there was an obvious determination to make it clear that the goal had not not been his fault. “I was clipped,” said the Dubliner. “Everybody must have seen it except the referee, who was five yards away,” he said.

“And then there are the other guys, on the goal line, this is supposed to be the sort of thing they brought them in for.”

Keane looked almost ashen-faced as he sat beside his manager in the post-match press conference. He expressed disappointment with the way he felt the players had let the fans down but obvious annoyance too that the Dutch match official Bjorn Kuipers had not seen things Keane believed to have been almost self evident.

“I think so, it was clear,” he said, “it was definite a penalty; no doubt about that. Their players and fans were shouting for us to put the ball out [Croatia’s Mandzukic lay injured on the pitch in the build-up to the incident] but just before I got the ball I think he tried to stand up. Whether that was something that the referee had in the back of his mind when he made his decision, though, you’d have to ask him.”

Keith Andrews felt he and his team-mates had been hard done by too but he was also quietly reflective. “We’ve conceded at key times in the game and it’s killed us,” he almost whispered. “Apart from the three goals, Shay [Given] hasn’t had an awful lot to do but they’ve got the goals, they’ve got that lead and they’ve effectively shut up shop

“It was a terrible start, we’ve given away that goal. Then, just before half-time, we’ve given away a corner, a needless corner and we concede from that corner too.

“Then we come in at half-time and say to each other, ‘okay, we’ll go out there, regroup, keep it together for the next 15 or 20 minutes and see if they get a little bit nervy so we can push them back,’ but then, again, we concede and it just kills us really.”

The pain of it all was clearly apparent but, the midfielder acknowledged, there is no time to dwell on it now.

“We’re deflated and the dressing room is very down but we’re going to have to quickly turn that around because you’ve seen there tonight that the fans were unbelievable, I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s all the lads have been talking about since we arrived in Poznan. They’ve been fantastic, it would send shivers down your spine the way they sing those songs and even when we went a goal down they were still fantastic. So obviously for ourselves, but also for them, we need to produce two performances worthy of their support.

“Two performances, it’s as simple as that. We need to perform. We need to get at teams, get right into them. Obviously we need to bounce back from this, we’re very deflated but we need to perform. We’ll look to regroup tomorrow. We’ll have a good chat, see where we went wrong . . . and see how we can put things right.”