This week marked a new era in Irish football as Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane faced there first challenge against Latvia at the Aviva Stadium. The team sheet backed up O’Neil’s claims earlier this week that he would be taking the match seriously by playing a strong side against this relatively unknown Latvia team. Arguably the real test will come next week when Ireland visit Poland next week but fan will really see what this management duo is like tonight. A surprise for me in the team line-up is that the experienced Robbie Keane is playing as a lone striker in a 4-4-1-1 formation with Norwich’s Wes Hoolahan behind Keane supporting him in a centre back role.
Ireland kicked off the game with a couple of short passes around the back four and midfield.They held onto possession before McClean was brought down outside the box, the free kick was taken by McGeady who crossed it into the box but the ball was cleared and didn’t really develop into anything. The first five minutes of the game were basically controlled by Ireland whom have had all the possession so far with Latvia only producing bad passes and attacking moves.
Ireland have looked very dangerous with balls played high down both of the wings and then wingers McGeady and McClean cross the ball into the box after receiving the long balls, so far the crossing has been very inaccurate from Ireland though and has not really put the Latvians under any sort of danger. Ireland came very close to scoring 10 minutes in when the Latvian keeper picked up the ball outside his box then Robbie Keane played the ball short to 11 who shot the ball in the box which the Latvian defence couldn’t clear well enough but when the ball fell to McGeady he couldn’t convert with Andris Vanins showing nice reactions for the save.
It seems though Latvia just haven’t turned up tonight with Ireland completely dominating possession and chances made at the twenty minute mark, Latvia just can’t seem to contain Ireland’s short snappy passing in midfield and when it comes to Latvia creating chances they are non-existent in the game. And Latvia where punished when a corner swung in by James McClean and headed by Aiden McGeady to the foot of captain fantastic Robbie Keane who just poked it past the keeper leaving him no chance, questions must be asked by the Latvian manager at half time with McGeady having being virtually unmarked in the box so he could head it to Keane who put it away with ease, Keane again nearly made it two shortly after the first goal when a sloppy pass by a Latvian midfielder was intercepted by Keane who just couldn’t put it past the Latvian keeper into the bottom corner.
Ireland again have been completely dominating all aspects of this game. They have all the possession, they are putting this Latvia team under immense pressure up front and look very solid at the back with Westwood not having to do much in the game. Coming up to half time we’ve seen a very one-sided game with the home side still looking completely dominant and it seems this will go forward onto the second half, obviously the Latvian manager will have a lot more work on his hands then O’Neil when prepping his players for the second half with very poor defensive and passing play Latvia just don’t look like equalizing.
The second half kicked off with the same irish team as the first half but with one change for Latvia 11 came on for 9.Ireland seem to have started the half the same way they finished the previous one, keeping possession and controlling the tempo of the game Ireland’s first chance of the half came from a nice on two between 7 and 10 with 10 controlling the ball with his right foot and 7 flicking it over 1o to have a shot that just flew over the bar. Latvia’s first booking was given to 6 for a reckless challenge on 11 Latvia seem to be getting frustrated with Ireland showing no mercy to the trailing visitors. 3 og) Ireland nearly put two ahead of the visitors when 11 skilfully passed a Latvian defender to cross the ball into Robbie Keane, Keane couldn’t connect with the ball but when Latvian defender 3 tried to chest it back to the keeper he nearly put the ball into the bottom corner of his goal which would of made things much worse for Latvia in this game.
The Irish defence is looking more solid then it ever has with the two centre backs 4 and 3 playing exceptionally well stopping Latvia from making any sort of impact in the game and giving 16 a very easy time between the sticks. 22 minutes into the second half Ireland where gifted another goal with Aiden McGeady getting his name on the goal sheet with an impressive shot outside the box right into the bottom corner of the Latvia goal, McGeady was left unmarked outside the box and so was able to shoot and score. It definitely had been coming with a number of long shots before that one by 8 and 10 for example but they went missed there target.
Ireland made a triple change on the 70 minute mark with Long, Walters and Reid all coming on for Keane, Hoolahan and McGeady. Arguably the three best players on the pitch rested and I’m sure they will play some part in the Poland game next week. Reid nearly made an immediate impact after coming on when a shot he took outside the box was saved by the keeper serious questions must be asked about Latvia’s defence as they are failing to close down players and are allowing shots to come at them from all angles.
Ireland got a third goal when a nice play started by the sub Walters passed the ball to Coleman on the right wing who then passed the ball across the goal line to Shane Long who put the ball in the back of the net really putting this game to bed and awarding Ireland there seven hundred international goal. Martin O’Neill made one final change in this match when three more subs came on for Ireland with Doyle, Stokes and Green replacing McClean, Whelan and McCarthy, a very attack minded change even though the republic are winning 3-0.
So after Martin O’Neil and Roy Keane’s international management debut came to a close they really showed they mean business by frankly destroying this very weak Latvia side. An all round brilliant performance from every player on the pitch gave Ireland this impressive win today. Trapattoni showed be looking at this game with envy as some of the players he didn’t really give a chance to for example McClean who proved today why he should of been picked on a regular basis for Ireland giving a man of the match performance tonight. Not only McClean but Hoolahan played very well also another player Trapattoni refused to play regularly, and of course the old boys of the team Keane, O’Shea and McGeady really stepped up there game i imagine because of the new style of play that O’Neil has them playing. the old Trapattoni way of play which was kick it up the pitch and hope for the best was virtually non existent with an new sharp quick and fluid style of play which not only makes easier to watch but also the players seem to be playing ten times better then they have done. Martin O’Neil said after the game it was too early to judge whheter or not his style of play had an impact on the match saying ”it’s very early to make assumptions”. Finally when asked if he will keep the squad similar to tonight’s he was quoted saying ”we will change the side around” he also said that he will be playing a different keeper (Robbie Elliot will be exception) quoted saying ”i will change the keeper for Tuesday night” but he did rule out Robbie Elliot playing ahead of Westwood and Randolph saying ”Robbie Elliot will be the exception”.
Republic Of Ireland team:
Westwood, Coleman, O’Shea, Wilson, Ward, McGeady, Whelan, McCarthy, McClean, Hoolahan, Keane.
Andris Vanins, Vladislavs Gabovs, Nauris Bulvitis, Kaspars Gorkss, Vitalijs Maksimenko, Renars Rode, Juris Laizans
Referee: Andreas Ekberg (Sweden)