Euro 2012 qualifiers

Euro 2012 qualifiers

IT Fri, Sep 2

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  • 18:58
    Rep of Ireland v Slovakia: So then, time for the final push. We’ll pretty much know where our Euro 2012 prospects lie come 6pm in Moscow next Tuesday. Before then is the small matter of Slovakia. Given the performance in Zilnia last October, the locals are approaching tonight’s match at the Aviva with unbridled optimism.

    But the visitors are likely to prove obdurate opponents.

    With little or no wriggle room at the top of Group B, nothing less than three points will do if we are to stay on course for next summer’s finals. Against a side that seem content to come and play for the draw, questions remain about Ireland’s ability to break them down.
  • 19:33

    Team news: Trapattoni’s policy of naming his side well in advance of kick-off could come back to haunt him. How Kevin Doyle reacts to his very public demotion, only to find himself back in the starting line-up, could have a huge bearing on tonight’s outcome.

    Doyle could never be accused of giving anything less than 100 per cent (that’s 110 per cent in soccer-speak) but strikers thrive on confidence. Given his manager’s lack of faith in him, and his troublesome knee, the Wolves frontman could be forgiven for feeling unwanted and unloved.

    For Slovakia, one man has dominated the build-up with Marek Hamsik’s fitness, or lack of, the subject of conjecture. In Irish circles at least. Manager Vladimir Weiss seemed less concerned about stories of painkilling injections and has named the Napoli playmaker in his starting line-up.

    Here are the teams in full;

    Rep of Ireland: Given, O’Shea, St. Ledger, Dunne, Ward, McGeady, Whelan, Andrews, Duff, Doyle, Keane. Subs: Westwood, Foley, O’Dea, Lawrence, Hunt, Keogh, Cox.

    Mucha, Pekarik, Skrtel, Durica, Cech, Weiss, Karhan, Stoch, Hamsik, Kucka, Holosko. Subs: Putnocky, Jez, Sestak, Vittek, Michalik, Jendrisek, Guede.

  • 19:39

    The result is in from Moscow and Russia have scraped past Macedonia 1-0. That puts Dick Advocaat’s side three points clear . . . for the time being at least.

    In the meantime, RTE have hired some class of motivational speaker to inspire the panel. Duly impressed, the three boys are unanimous in their forecasts of an Irish win. Where’s Hook when you need him.

  • 19:44
    A quick glance across Europe and, what’s this, England are already 2-0 against Bulgaria. In Bulgaria. Still, there’s 70 minutes left, plenty of time for matters to go awry.
  • 19:48
    We’re fast approaching kick-off here in Dublin. Not much of a crowd in Dublin 4, pretty disappointing for a match of such importance.
  • 19:51
    1 min: Darragh Moloney is in the hot seat for those watching on the tube. Informs us that Slovakia are playing from left to right. Unless, of course, you’re reading this from the East Stand, in which case they’re playing from right to left. Enough of all that, we’re off and running.
  • 19:55
    5 mins: Slovakia looking assured in the early stages. Comfortable on the ball, but keeping plenty of men in their own half. Ireland finding it hard to pick their way through . . . Doyle lieft a hopeful effort towards Robbie Keane, but the attack fizzles out.
  • 19:57
    7 mins: The travelling fans like what they’re seeing so far, if the decibel levels from behind the away goal are anything to go by. Pekarik makes an advance run down the right for Slovakia, but after getting in behind Ward is called back for offside.
  • 19:59
    9 mins: Doyle, who has caused Skrtel a few problems in the opening 10 mins, wins a free-kick from the Liverpool centre-half wide on the left. But St Ledger gets a little over-enthusiastic when the ball comes across and concedes the foul.
  • 20:03
    13 mins: Nice little passage of play from Ireland. Duff released Doyle down the right and with nothing on, Ireland are content to keep possession and rebuild from the back. Eventually Doyle’s through ball is overhit but nice, patient play from the home side.
  • 20:05
    14 mins: Weiss threads a lovely pass in behind St Ledger but before Kucka can pull the trigger Richard Dunne nips it away from him. Good covering from the defender.
  • 20:07
    16 mins: At the other end, O’Shea pings across and Keane attempts the Hollywood finish. Well he would, wouldn’t  he. The skipper’s acrobatic effort comes off his shin and skews harmlessly wide. “We’ve seen those go in before,” recalls Ronnie Whelan in the commentary booth, with a none to subtle nod to his wonder strike / fluke against Russia in Euro 88.
  • 20:10
    19 mins: Andrews loses possession cheaply and Slovakia break quickly, working the ball to Weiss who really should have tested Given more thoroughly. Instead, the shot is straight at the goalkeeper. A let-off for Ireland.
  • 20:12
    21 mins: St Ledger climbs over Holosko, giving Slovakia a free on the edge of the area. After a bit of a natter with his teammates, Durica finally decides to hit it . . . straight at the wall and Ireland clear.
  • 20:13
    23 mins: And Slovkia are pressing again, stretching Ireland down the right where Ward has been caught out of position. Ireland clear but we suspect this is a bit too open for Trapattoni’s liking.
  • 20:18
    29 mins: The pressure’s still building on the Irish defence and St Ledger concedes a needless free in another dangerous position. Weiss sends over the cross, Skrtel has it nipped away from him but back it comes and Holosko’s header is turned away by Given. The natives are getting restless in the Aviva, with Ireland looking more and more uncertain.
  • 20:20
    30 mins: Cech is sent clear with a long through ball but his control lets him down. Worrying spell for Ireland who are relying on hopeful punts forward at the moment.
  • 20:23
    33 mins: Ireland caught out again, Duff the culprit on this occasion as his stray pass allows Slovakia to break in numbers. This time Ward is where he should be and the fullback snuffs out the danger.
  • 20:27
    36 mins: A quick breather for Ireland as Durica receives treatment after clashing with Dunne. When play resumes, Ireland again struggle to put their foot on the ball. Ward is again caught out of position and McGeady does well to cover back.
  • 20:29
    40 mins: Good work by Duff, who stings Mucha’s palms after a neat exchange with Andrews. Far from chastened, Slovakia come right back at Ireland and Weiss lets fly from distance. There’s a nice tempo to this contest, but Slovakia have been calling the tune so far.
  • 20:33
    34 mins: Slovakia continue to own the ball, toying with Ireland who are getting understandably frustrated. Trapattoni will need to earn his corn at the interval.
  • 20:36
    45 mins: An all too rare attack is spurned by Ward, who sends his cross miles over the heads on the onrushing Doyle an Keane. Not a great 45 minutes for Kevin Kilbane’s replacement, but most of this Irish side will have to ask questions of themselves over their half-time cuppa. Plenty of work to do after the break.
  • 20:47
    Slovakia enjoyed 57 per cent of possession in that first half. Seemed like more, to be honest. “Astounding, isn’t it,” asks Bill in the studio. “No,” deadpans Liam Brady. He’s got a point. Weiss’s side are superior in almost every department, bossing the midfield and exposing Ireland down the flanks.
  • 20:51
    46 mins: Predictions are being hastily revised among the panel as the sides re-emerge.  No changes to either side as of yet as the play resumes.
  • 20:54
    47 mins: And we pick up right where we left off. Ireland start off by lumping it forward over the end line, whereas Slovakia get the ball on the deck and try to play football.
  • 20:57
    50 mins: This is better. Duff breaks down the right and Ireland start to apply a little pressure of their own. Whelan looks for a penalty but his appeal is correctly waved away. At least the Slovakian defence is starting to have a few questions asked of it.
  • 21:00
    53 mins: Stoch provides a little light relief with a shot from distance that threatens to clear the perspex at the Havelock Sq end. Ireland have injected a bit of harem scarem into their play, knocking the visitors out of their stride.
  • 21:04
    56 mins: Hamsik orchestrates another Slovakia attack, which ends up with Weiss shooting narrowly wide. Tardelli is spoken to by the fourth official on the touchline as he makes his feelings known.
  • 21:07
    59 mins: Heart in mouth moment in the Irish defence. Weiss sends a delightful ball across the six-yard box with somehow evades the onrushing Skrtel and Holosko.
  • 21:08
    60 mins: And another. Holosko breaks clear of Dunne, squares to the unmarked Hamsik who is only denied by a last-ditch St Ledger block.
  • 21:12
    64 mins: Simon Cox comes on for Doyle as Trapattoni attempts to freshen things up. Kucka, meanwhile, is booked for taking out McGeady as the winger goes past him.
  • 21:14
    66 mins: Weiss cuts through the Irish defence but again his cross is not turned home. Really should have been 1-0 to Slovakia.
  • 21:16
    69 mins: Chances coming thick and fast for Slovakia. Shay Given has a rush of blood, picking up the ball after he had already dropped it. The ref awards an indirect free-kick inside the box but the Irish wall stands firm (twice) and the danger is averted for another few seconds.
  • 21:21
    73 mins: Duff floats the ball across and Keane, unmarked . . . sends his header over the bar. Terrible miss from the captain, who took his eye off the ball and let it come off his shoulder. Ireland won’t get a better chance, that’s for sure.
  • 21:25
    77 mins: Cox now has a sight, well more of a glimpse, of goal but can only stab his shot into Mucha’s arms. But Stoch is then fouled by Andrews at the other end and Durica will fancy this one.
  • 21:26
    78 mins: But his shot again comes back of the wall. Time running out for Ireland who really do need all three points before next week's daunting trip to Moscow.
  • 21:32
    84 mins: Inches wide from Cox! Keane gets in behind the defence, plays it back to Cox who does well to get his shot away despite the attention of four Slovak defenders but steers it just wide.
  • 21:34
    86 mins: Trapattoni throws on Stephen Hunt who gets busy down the left flank. Andrews, meanwhile, is clearly held in the penalty area but the ref isn’t interested.
  • 21:43
    Full-time: One last chance for Ireland. And it’s blown. Hunts measured cross is missed by St Ledger but finds its way to an unsuspecting Dunne, unmarked at the back post, who can only send it wide. All roads now lead to Moscow, but Ireland’s campaign is now on life-support.