Ireland find a way to spoil the party for Poland

Thu, Feb 7, 2013, 00:00

Republic of Ireland 2 Poland 0:The sight of shirtless supporters in the crowd before this game suggested that, no matter how long they've been here, some of our visitors from Poland still haven't accustomed themselves to the mildness of our climate. On the pitch, the players they had come in large numbers to cheer on seemed similarly at home early on.

By the end, however, they must have been wondering how their party had been spoiled by an Ireland side that included three debutants over the 90 minutes.

Though not exactly newcomers, Ciarán Clark and Wes Hoolahan, made rare appearances memorable by getting the goals, both capitalising on poor Polish defending of set-pieces and Hoolahan, in particular, made the very most of his short time on the pitch.

Clark finished coolly in the 35th minute and an assured second-half performance overshadowing some early uncertainty, but there were others who will feel they can build on what they did here, not least Jeff Hendrick who made as swift an impact as any after taking to the senior international stage for the very first time, quickly setting up Hoolahan's goal.

Something to defend

That Ireland had finished the first half with something to defend was remarkable given the how the Poles had dominated the early exchanges.

As expected, Robert Lewandowski looked a major threat but the Borussia Dortmund striker was twice denied by goalkeeper David Forde and once by the Belgian referee who decided, charitably perhaps, that Clark's collision with the 24-year-old striker at the end of the half didn't merit a penalty kick.

By then, the locals were, somewhat implausibly, in front thanks to Clark. And after some good goalkeeping from Forde, twice, from Lewandowski.

In the first instance the striker, who was clear one on one, should have given the Galwayman no chance, but Forde, as he did several times on the night, was admirably quick off his line.

On the second occasion, though, he made a quite brilliant save to keep a volleyed shot from reaching the bottom right corner of the goal.

As the night wore on he had less and less to do but whatever did come his way, he dealt with calmly.

At the other end, Conor Sammon could scarcely be faulted for effort but for all his running and jumping, the Dubliner made little impact.

From early on, he did succeed in making a nuisance of himself when there was a high ball to scrap for and on one occasion his efforts indirectly led to Robbie Brady getting in a shot that flew well wide.

Blew his chance

The striker, however, blew his only real chance to mark his arrival at this level with a goal when James McClean's low drive was turned almost perfectly into his path by recently arrive substitute Arkadiusz Milik. Under pressure, Sammon's second touch was heavy and the ball ran safely into the arms of Wojciech Szczesny.

Trapattoni stuck with him while Shane Long was replaced by Hoolahan. Not long after that, Hendrick was handed his debut, the 21-year-old on for James McCarthy at the same as Jonathan Walters replaced Robbie Brady.

The board was barely down when Ireland won a free that McClean whipped in and the Poles partially cleared. Hendrick then showed tremendous control and vision to take the ball down and lift it at angle over the entire defence for Hoolahan, who took it down, as a desperate challenge came in, and pushed it towards the far corner with great skill.

This goal was nearly as heavily against the run of the play as Ireland's first and Poland's fading challenge slipped down another gear or two in its wake.

Trapattoni felt sufficiently comfortable with the situation to replace Clark with another debutant, Richard Keogh, five minutes from time.

The Derby defender did his bit, though, as Ireland coasted through the final stages of the game.

Hopefully, he'll be tested a little more vigorously at this level some time soon. Most of those around him will only have to wait until Stockholm.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Forde (Millwall); McShane (Hull City), O'Shea (Sunderland), Clark (Aston Villa, Keogh 84), Cunningham (Bristol City); Brady (Hull City, Walters 71), McCarthy (Wigan, Hendrick 71), Whelan (Stoke City, Green 46), McClean (Sunderland, Cox 81); Sammon (Derby County), Long (West Brom, Hoolahan 62).

POLAND: Boruc; Boenisch, Glik, Perquis, Wawrzyniak; Lukasik (Mierzejewski 77), Krychowiak; Blaszczykowski, Obraniak (Milik 60), Pawlowski (Grosicki 46); Lewandowski.

Referee: S Delferiere (Belgium).

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