Ireland end campaign with win over Kazakhstan
Goals from Robbie Keane and John O’Shea help Noel King’s side to end on something of a high
Ireland’s Richard Dunne congratulates goalscorer John O’Shea. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Ireland’s Robbie Keane scores a penalty past Kazakhstan goalkeeper Andrey Sidelnikov. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Republic of Ireland 3 Kazakhstan 1: Like the budget that preceded it by a few hours, this low key but ultimately fairly comfortable Irish win will be greeted by the optimists as containing glimpses of a brighter future to come.
On the football front, though, like the financial one there is still an awful lot of work to be done. If it’s to start next month under a new manager then Noel King can return to the sidelines with a certain sense of satisfaction after his two game stint.
The win here was welcome and may well prove significant in terms of the seeding next time out while the team’s superiority over the 90 minutes was generally beyond question.
The tactical transformation remains very much a work in progress but to have expected anything else would surely have been foolish, especially if you believed the starting point was the stoneage.
In the event, Robbie Keane’s 61 goals for his country along with a rather rarer one for john O’Shea and a second half own goal ensured an Irish victory that had not really seemed to be in all that much doubt even when the home side brought trouble on itself and conceded an early goal.
King’s reshaping of the side was along broadly expected lines with Marc Wilson reverting to left back, James McCarthy to a deeper lying midfield position and Anthony Stokes to the left of the three who sat behind Robbie Keane.
In the centre, Andy Reid returned after his extended sabbatical while Kevin Doyle switched flanks in a side that was clearly geared more towards attack than the one selected on Friday night had been. And almost from the off the prospects of a profitable night looked good with the Kazakhs looking vulnerable on the back foot and their goalkeeper, Andrey Sidelnikov, uncertain under any sort of pressure.
Unfortunately, the hosts had problems in that department too and it was they who were to be punished first. Séamus Coleman, having been lucky already when Maxat Baizhanov headed over from three yards after the full back had been too slow to prevent Alexander Kislitsyn crossing, was the culprit for the goal with his weak attempt to recover after completely missing an attempted clearance, enabling Andrey Karpovich to clear the way for a Dmitriy Shomko strike that clattered the inside of the far post as it flew in from almost 30 yards.
Thankfully it was something of a low point and Ireland were back on terms within a couple of minutes thanks to Kislitsyn’s bewildering decision to handle a Reid destined, it seemed, for Dunne’s head.
Keane’s penalty to the bottom right corner was cool as you like.
Not much else went quite so smoothly but the Irish did settle down a little over time and began to assert themselves as the better team.
Before he was stretchered off with what looked like a serious enough knee injury, Gibson struck up a promising looking partnership with McCarthy and Everton boss Roberto Martinez looked understandably put out when the northerner came down awkwardly as he tried to reclaim possession after Reid had carelessly given it away.