Ireland pegged back by 10-man Costa Rica

Kevin Doyle returns to the scoresheet but Ireland rue missed Robbie Keane penalty

Republic of Ireland’s Robbie Keane misses a penalty against Costa Rica. Photograph: INPHO/Donall Farmer

Republic of Ireland’s Robbie Keane misses a penalty against Costa Rica. Photograph: INPHO/Donall Farmer


Ireland 1 Costa Rica 1

High drama by the Delaware River but there was no win for Martin O’Neill’s team in the first match of the fancifully-named Freedom Cup. Two penalties, one missed by the least likely of lads, defined the second half but Costa Rica departed the gorgeous little Philadelphia Union stadium the happier of the two countries. A goal and a defender down at half time, they might have stolen a win here after a courageous second half.

A return to scoring form for Kevin Doyle, a robust evening in the heart of the defence by Richie Keogh, an assured debut by Shane Duffy and the seldom seen sight of a spurned Robbie Keane penalty summed up the night for the Irish. As always, Martin O’Neill was measured in his analysis but was disappointed by Ireland’s failure to press on.

“I thought that we got a really good goal by Kevin Doyle and did really fine in the first half of the match, dealing with anything they threw at us reasonably comfortably. Then they had the man sent off and I don’t know if we got casual but we had a really poor spell in the first fifteen minutes of the second half culminating with the penalty.”

The first half was largely defined by Kevin Doyle’s head. The Wexford man opened the scoring in the 18th minute with a powerfully placed and accurate header, rising to meet what was an exquisite cross by Marc Wilson and directing his shot to the left of Keylor Navas. He turned to celebrate into what was an entirely empty terrace on the Delaware river side of the stadium before facing his team mates to celebrate what was a first international goal since September 2012. But five minutes before half time, he was receiving treatment for a deep gash after clashing with Giancarlo Gonzalez.

Earlier, Doyle, full of industry from the kick-off, had inadvertently caught Gonzalez when he was jumping for the ball but in the 40th minute, the Costa Rican defender returned the attention with interest. He clattered Doyle with a glancing elbow, who began to remonstrate angrily before blood began streaming down his face. Referee Raul Castro flashed a yellow to Gonzalez and then, as if disturbed by the sight of blood, upgraded it to red. Gonzalez disappeared down the tunnel, the latest casualty in what has been a turbulent World Cup preparation for the Central Americans.

The disappointment was that Ireland couldn’t capitalise on that numerical advantage. Instead, they found themselves hemmed in as the Costa Ricans pressed adventurously and repeatedly threatened to expose the Irish, with Joel Campbell and Marco Urena coming to life. Richie Keogh made a stretching tackle to deny Urena in the 51st minute but the composure which had distinguished Ireland’s play in the first half was beginning to disappear as the Costa Ricans started to enjoy themselves. In the 63rd minute, a clever slide-rule pass from Campbell split James McClean and Shane Duffy and David Forde, scampering across to cover, caught Urena’s boots. Celso Borges levelled the match from the penalty spot.

“It took us time to get to grips and they played much better with the ten men that the eleven,” O’Neill said.

“It was their last chance before the World Cup and we had a few problems we didn’t deal with in the manner we did against Italy. Obviously I made a lot of changes in the team and that may have led to us being a bit disjointed. I felt in that fifteen minute spell we should have got out and close them down a bit better than we did.”

The turnaround was startling. Costa Rica did little to alarm any English scouts scribbling notes in the stadium with a largely uninspired first half. Their only half chance came when David Forde, stretching to cut a cross, palmed a ball in the path of Borges, who flashed his shot over the bar. Twice Richie Keogh covered good ground to cancel threatening build-ups, stepping in to disrupt a sharp one-two between Junior Diaz and Joel Campbell in the 34th minute. But apart from that, they did little to illustrate their comparatively lofty perch in the FIFA rankings.

Still, half time can work miracles. Marc Wilson’s withdrawal with a hamstring injury affected the balance of the team, with James McClean required to fill in that left back slot. The Costa Rican’s emerged emboldened and urged on by a surprisingly raucous local support.

Ireland had a wonderful chance to immediately re-establish their lead when Stephen Quinn, in what was a highly enterprising debut won what will go down as one of the softer penalties of his career after being bundled over by Heiner Mora. The volatile Costa Rican crowd booed Robbie Keane lustily and were rewarded with one of the rarer sights in football: Robbie Keane missed a penalty. His stutter step shot was comfortably parried by Keylor Navas.

Martin O’Neill ran the bench after that. McGeady shimmered on the right wing and Shane Long let fly with a terrific right foot shot from outside the box in the 83rd minute but to no avail. Jorge Luis Pinto, the Costa Rican coach was highly animated after the game – even as several of the Costa Ricans in the crowd of 6,000 made doomed attempts to invade the pitch – and he stopped to have words with Robbie Keane afterwards.

“I told him he is special, a crack player and it is a shame that he has to leave football soon.”

Something may have been lost in translation: it was one of those nights.

Republic of Ireland: Forde; Kelly, Duffy, Keogh, Wilson; Pilkington Whelan Green, Quinn; Keane, Doyle.

Substitutions: McClean for Wilson (40 mins), Hendrick for Green (64 mins), McGeady for Pilkington (64 mins) Long for Doyle (70 mins), Houlahan for Keane (84 mins), Cox for Quinn (84 mins).

Costa Rica: Navas; Duarte, Gonzalez, Umana; Ruiz, Borges, Cubero, Mora, Diaz; Campbell, Urena.

Substitutions: Pemberton for Navas (half-time), Bolanos for Ruiz (75 mins), Brenes for Urena (79 mins), Calvo for Campbell (88 mins).

Referee: Raul Castro.

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