Disappointing result demands further examination of Trapattoni’s substitutions

I wanted to see the excellent McCarthy, Green and Whelan in front of the back four with one striker working alone

Ireland's fans feel the chill at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Lorraine O'Sullivan/Inpho

Ireland's fans feel the chill at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Lorraine O'Sullivan/Inpho


In all my years in the dugout, I was never overly upset by my team coughing up a sloppy goal in the opening 10 minutes. In fact, it normally calmed me down, especially against a team we were expected to beat.

For obvious reasons, it’s the best time to concede. The 93rd minute is the worst. It’s a moment that will always leave you cold to the bone, feeling your age. If you are young it instantly makes you feel old.

That was what we all felt last night after Austria snatched a draw from defeat. Broken. Frustrated.

An early goal was usually proof that my players had only half listened to me before taking the field, and had certainly underestimated the opposition. Ireland were perhaps too cocky, too dismissive of the Austrians after performing so competently in Stockholm last Friday.

David Alaba and Zlatko Junuzovic weren’t long commanding some respect. Junuzovic’s loss after James McCarthy’s heavy challenge cost them their most creative player.

A late goal is sometimes nothing more than unlucky but we had slunk into our shell during those last 15 minutes.

Alaba’s late, late shot, deflecting past a hapless David Forde severely damages our aspirations of qualifying for the World Cup. We must now beat Sweden at home. This result continues the trend of struggling against the middle tier nations at home. That is Trap’s Achilles heel.

Further examination
Until the death, he was primed to avoid a March inquisition but this draw demands further examination of his substitutions. It’s not who he introduced but who he replaced.

Sticking with Glenn Whelan for 90 minutes was an error. Whelan had a good game but he was clearly fading, not covering the necessary ground.

I began to feel uncomfortable in those last few minutes. We needed a fresh impetus to retain possession and ensure the defensive screen was impenetrable, rather than Paul Green for Shane Long and pushing Jonathan Walters forward to maintain a strict 4-4-2 formation.

I wanted to see the excellent McCarthy, Green and Whelan in front of the back four with one striker working alone.

Sticking to the shape back-fired. We desperately needed more than two midfielders as they started to take risks.

During the game, whether under instruction or not, the players adapted to Austria’s superiority in midfield with Jonathan Walters coming inside to help out and Conor Sammon dropping back.

But in those last few minutes, after the substitutions, Walters shouldn’t have been pushed forward.

We lacked the guile and experience to either hang on. Walters and McClean made some silly decisions, giving Austria the ball that led to their second goal.

Also, there was too many unnecessary free kicks conceded that only added pressure on our defenders. The Austrians will feel they deserved the equaliser, given the number of chances they created in the second half, but they rarely troubled David Forde, except from a well rehearsed free kick by Alaba. But it was a weak header by Harnik, although David Forde did well to stop his earlier shot.

From going 1-0 down until about 70 minutes, when the younger players seemed to be struggling with nerves, I really liked the Irish energy and aggression. The composure on the ball could have been far better but that’s hardly a new problem.

I didn’t see why this Austrian team should have us in a backs-to-the-wall situation for the last 15 minutes.

It was no harm to see Sean St Ledger arriving for the injured Ciaran Clark. Getting caught in possession by Junuzovic for Harnik's goal was not the only reason the jury is still out on the Aston Villa centre back.

Initially, Trapattoni’s tactics proved effective; route one to the front two or diagonal balls, left to right, for Walters. Sammon did fine in an agricultural way but it was Long who battered into the Austrians, cleverly shielding possession, drawing a raft of fouls and almost scoring with a clever back heal.

Austria struggled to contain him last night, especially Aleksandar Dragovic and what Emanuel Pogatetz was thinking when diving in on the Tipperary battler to surrender a penalty only he can explain. It cost Austria their early lead and ultimately turned the tide Ireland’s way.

James McClean started poorly but, like many Irish players, he grew into the contest becoming a real torn in the Austrians side.

The crowd appreciated the effort of this young Irish team last night, applauding the 90 minute endeavour but 90 minutes is sometimes not enough.

Hugely disappointing, but plenty of evidence – like McCarthy, Seamus Coleman and other promoted fringe players – that the road ahead will not be so grim.

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