Staunton critical of Keane miss

 

Republic of Ireland manager Steve Staunton  accused captain Robbie Keane of committing "a cardinal sin" that cost the side victory against Germany.

The point from a goalless draw at Dublin's Croke Park was enough for the Germans to qualify for next summer's Euro 2008 finals.

As for Staunton's side, they now need the mother of all mathematical miracles if they are to avoid missing out on playing in a major tournament for a third time in succession.

Although the majority of the 90 minutes were pretty mundane, Ireland missed an opportunity to beat one of Europe's best teams, and Keane in particular was the guilty culprit.

In the first half Tottenham striker Keane had one chance when he was played through by Charlton's Andy Reid, only to see German veteran and Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann save with his leg.

But then five minutes into the second half came the key chance, with Keane latching onto a booming header from Stephen Kelly that landed behind the German defences.

But Ireland's 31-goal all-time leading scorer tamely attempted a lob that Lehmann gratefully claimed, and with it went the Republic's last realistic hope of qualification.

"I thought the first chance was a very good save from Lehmann," reflected Staunton. "Robbie was unlucky as he did everything right, trying to place the ball between the keeper's legs, but Lehmann had narrowed the angle.

"For the second, I think he thought he was offside and didn't play to the whistle, which is a cardinal sin. But he knows that and hopefully he has saved up one or two goals for Wednesday's game with Cyprus."

Staunton conceded he was "bitterly disappointed" with the result, and now he appreciates third place in the group is the priority.

"I thought we should have won the game," added Staunton. "The players put in a very good performance, especially in the second half when we showed great commitment and work rate.

"Now we must finish the group off properly and come third. We know that's important. We want to keep our record going at Croke Park, and at home in the group in general, as we have yet to be beaten.

"But we know it is not going to be easy on Wednesday because Cyprus are not a bad side at all as they were unlucky not to get something from their game in the Czech Republic (losing 1-0) and were unlucky not to beat the Germans at home."