Trapattoni is given plenty to think about

Wed, Mar 30, 2011, 01:00

SOCCER INTERNATIONAL FRIENDLY Republic of Ireland 2 Uruguay 3:THE ARGUMENT that the size of the attendances for recent Ireland games has absolutely nothing to do with the brand of football being played by the team might just have taken a bit of a battering at the Aviva stadium last night where the smallest crowd for many years to watch the national team play did at least give the firm impression over the course of the night that they reckoned they were getting their money’s worth.

True, there was little or none of the intensity that accompanies a big qualifying game and little even of the edge-of-the-seat excitement that sets in when the Irish start to court disaster against the likes of Macedonia after having led 2-0 in the opening stages.

An almost unrecognisable Irish side played with a sense of enterprise and energy last night that clearly struck a chord with those diehard supporters who had made the effort to come along and cheer them on.

The Uruguayans, it should be said, did their bit too, with the strong and skilful South Americans providing a vivid reminder of how they finished fourth in last year’s World Cup. The result was as entertaining a friendly game as has been put on here in quite a few years.

Both teams made rather bright starts to what was an enjoyably open game throughout. The Irish settled well over the course of the opening exchanges and looked for a while to be a match for their opponents in terms of their passing and movement.

Keith Fahey looked to orchestrate things from the centre as James McCarthy floated between midfield and attack and Liam Lawrence, initially at least, posed the greater threat of the home side’s two wide men.

McCarthy, indeed, was one of the night’s real success stories with the 20 year-old a little understated perhaps but still showing considerable maturity and an impressive capacity to influence the tempo of the game by switching between quick, accurate first-time passes and rather more patient build-up play.

With none of the pressure that accompanies competitive games, there wasn’t nearly such an emphasis on trying to hurry things along and the result was that what was effectively Trapattoni’s second string made a better fist of passing and retaining the ball for spells than his first XI sometimes manages to do.

Stephen Kelly and Darren O’Dea certainly looked comfortable carrying the ball out from the back through the early stages and with Uruguay playing four in midfield and three up front, there was space for the Irish to press forward into.

They suffered a setback just 13 minutes in when Fahey was a little unfortunate to see his attempted clearance of a Diego Forlan free ricochet off Edinson Cavani and roll nicely into the path of Diego Lugano who side-footed home from a few yards out.

To their credit they bounced back almost immediately with Shane Long starting and finishing a move that involved Paul Green and Lawrence. The Reading striker rose high above Diego Godin and Maximiliano Pereira to head home Lawrence’s cross.

Pretty swiftly, though, the locals managed to lose the initiative again with Cavani producing a nice finish after a poor first touch in the wake of Pereira being allowed to work his way in from the right unchallenged.

This time Trapattoni’s men found it harder to pick themselves straight back up again. Passes started to go astray a little more often with Fahey a particular offender and the Uruguayans showed quite a few times just how well they could use the ball when given so easily.

Their passing was slick in every department and Forlan and Abel Hernandez both had chances to add to the visitors’ lead before the latter managed to do so five minutes before the break.

Fahey’s cross-field ball on this occasion was actually decent enough but Lawrence waited a little too patiently for it to come to his feet allowing Alvaro Pereira to steal in, and take off before eventually setting the Palermo striker up for what was another good goal.

That, really, ought to have been that against opponents of this calibre but Ireland, as they did on Saturday night, steadied themselves after the break and set about the South Americans with renewed enthusiasm.

Within three minutes, they’d halved the deficit with Long skipping down the right in pursuit of a Fahey pass before cutting the ball back towards the penalty spot. McCarthy and Andy Keogh looked for a moment as if they might collide as they closed in for the shot but Martin Caceres instead stuck out a leg and appeared to manage the rare feat of fouling both players at the same time.

Somehow, he worked up the nerve to protest but the French referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty which Fahey calmly placed beyond the goalkeeper and far into the bottom left corner for his third goal in just nine international appearances.

From that point the real shock was that there wasn’t another goal or two as both sides continued to throw bodies forward while leaving themselves open to attack at the back.

Keogh became an increasingly influential figure in Ireland’s pursuit of an equaliser and should have had one when Fernando Muslera, who had at least as bad a night in goal as Edin Nuredinoski did at the weekend, made a particular mess of a Keith Treacy free from the right. The Dubliner, though, perhaps due to the scale of his surprise at getting the opportunity, somehow headed wide of the target from a yard out.

At the other end Hernandez fired well over and Westwood made a fine double save to make his particular mark on the evening.

On balance there was little doubt that the better team won but the Irish had given their all, produced their fair share of good football and nearly reaped a fitting reward for their effort.

Sometimes you simply can’t put a price on that.

REP OF IRELAND: Westwood (Coventry City); Foley (Wolves), Kelly (Fulham), O’Dea (Ipswich Town), Clark (Aston Villa); Lawrence (Portsmouth), Green (Derby Conty), Fahey (Birmingham City), Keogh (Bristol City); McCarthy (Wigan Athletic); Long (Reading). Subs: Gibson (Manchester United) for Fahey and Treacy (Preston North End) for McCarthy (66 mins), Delaney (Ipswich Town) for Clark (75 mins), McGeady (Spartak Moscow) for Lawrence 78 mins), Stokes (Celtic) for Keogh) (85 mins).

URUGUAY: Muslera (Lazio); Caceres (Seville), Lugano (Fenerbahce), Godin (Atletico Madrid); M Pereira (Benfica), Perez (Bologna), Rios (Botafogo), A Pereira (Porto); Hernandez (Palermo), Forlan (Atletico Madrid), Cavani (Napoli). Subs: Gargano (Napoli) for Rios (64 mins), Eguren (Sporting Gijon) for Hernandez (84 mins), Scotti (Colo Colo) for Perez (90 mins).

Referee: S Ennjimi(France).