Road to Rio almost hits a road block
WORLD CUP 2014 QUALIFYING Kazakhstan 1 Rep of Ireland 2:GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI’S side completed a remarkable escape act here last night where late goals by Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle ensured Ireland kicked their World Cup campaign off with a win. The visitors trailed until the 88th minute, at which point they faced the very real prospect of suffering what would have been a humiliating defeat.
As the minutes slipped by Ireland, having fallen behind late in the first half, did little enough to suggest they could salvage a point, never mind all three, but the team’s strikers ultimately turned things on their head in a space of 90 seconds or so.
Keane first won a penalty – which he converted – after being bundled into the goal by Mikhail Rozhkov as he tried to get onto the end of a Doyle cross. The Wexford man then completed the turnaround with a thumping strike from the middle of the area after Stephen Ward had turned a Glenn Whelan free into his path.
It was an astonishing comeback by a side that played poorly and might easily have conceded one or two more at the other end. The manner of the victory could not have been all that much less impressive and yet the players did at least show the character required to keep at their tasks until the dying minutes and to take the chances that eventually came their way.
Regardless of how it was earned, the win means Ireland have avoided a potentially fatal slip at the very first hurdle of this qualifying race and few will worry about the quality of the performance here if things improve.
The team made its usual attempt to hit the ground running but three early corners yielded nothing, with the visitors struggling, it seemed, to control the ball when under any sort of pressure.
James McCarthy did force an early save from Andrey Sidelnikov but his shot was far too tame to actually beat the 32-year-old, whose involvement over the course of the rest of the opening half was generally limited to collecting a few high balls under pressure from the likes of Jon Walters or Keane.
The quality of what he had to deal with was generally poor, with Aiden McGeady, for instance, failing to seriously trouble either the goalkeeper or his big centre-halves with a succession of attempted crosses. The approach was somewhat baffling given that the locals consistently looked more vulnerable when the ball was kept on the ground.
Ireland certainly enjoyed enough possession to make more of an impact over the first 45 minutes. There were a couple of occasions when they might have snatched something but there was very little sustained pressure.