Road to Rio almost hits a road block
Keane did do well at one point to control a throw from the right and shoot but the attempt on goal was a couple of yards wide. On one of the other rare occasions the locals looked rattled Simon Cox was still lining up his shot when he was dispossessed just inside the area.
The hosts, by contrast, looked both confident and quick as they broke forward at intervals. As early as the 17th minute they gave Ireland’s back four a wake up call with Tanat Nusserbayev doing well to work the ball towards the opposition area from midfield. He then pushed the ball wide beyond John O’Shea, who would have been in an awful lot of trouble if left back Alexandr Kirov had made the run his team-mate expected.
Keiren Westwood then reacted more quickly than Ulan Konysbayev to another, shorter angled pass and did well to take the ball from the midfielder’s feet. He was forced into a fine stop minutes before the break when Konysbayev’s long range strike looked to be heading for the bottom right corner. But there was little he could do to prevent the goal that came between the two incidents. Not for the first time, he was left exposed by those in front of him.
Having done well enough over the opening half an hour or so, Ward conceded a needless free kick out on Kazakhstan’s right wing. From there the home side gave the visitors a lesson in the art of set-pieces, with Genrikh Shmidtgal floating an enticing ball in for his unmarked captain, Kairat Nurdauletov, to head perfectly beyond the goalkeeper. The home crowd, generally excitable, went wild.
The visitors limped to the break without conceding a second and returned looking a little more purposeful. McCarthy pushed the ball around well at times and McGeady threatened but never quite managed to open the locals up.
Essentially the search for an equaliser became ever more centred on knocking high balls in the direction of the opposition six-yard box but almost every one was either headed clear or safely gathered by the goalkeeper.
At the other end, things weren’t quite so straightforward. Ireland’s back four was caught out more than once by misjudged attempts to play offside and Westwood, who had to save well again from Baurzhan Jolchiyev after a mix up in front of him, repeatedly ran forward to berate his team-mates.
Trapattoni’s reaction to it all was predictable enough, with Doyle replacing Cox early in the second half and Shane Long arriving on for Walters not long after. Both made themselves busy but it was Doyle’s contribution that was ultimately critical on a night that most of those involved will hope is quickly forgotten.