Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Match Report in Stephen Staunton's Head

San Marino.........................1
(Marani 85)

Republic of Ireland............2
(Kilbane 49, Ireland 90)

Stephen Staunton's Ireland snatched a glorious late win against crack continentals San Marino last night - and kept up the heat on Group D rivals Germany and the Czech Republic.

Showing the kind of character that made Staunton's name as a player, his team battled back from the body-blow of a late equaliser by the stylish Sammarinese, Stephen Ireland making it a night to remember for the travelling green army with a last-gasp winner.

The hard-fought three points hauls the Boys in Green up to third in the group, increasing the momentum for what looks to be a full-tilt bid for EURO 2008 qualification.

Ireland, sent out in an inventive 4-4-2 formation by shrewd tactician Staunton, set about their much-vaunted opponents with brio early on, Robbie Keane going close with two shots just past San Marino keeper Simoncini's right hand post.

Midfield general Lee Carsley, recalled to the squad in a masterstroke by Staunton before last October's match against the Czech Republic, controlled the central area, brushing aside the hosts' stars Muccioli and Bonini with a classy display. The Everton maestro came close to opening the deadlock with a well-struck drive after 20 minuntes.

The travelling hordes in green roared their men on, buoyed by the verve of their heroes' display. Damien Duff teased and tormented the home defence, setting up Keane on two occasions, while Steve Finnan probed with menace on the right.

Simoncini in goal was sparing the f├ęted home team a hiding, leaping to deny Ian Harte's vicious free-kick and cutting out a Finnan cross to the back post as the first half drew to an end.
Cheered into the dressing rooms at the interval by the proud band of visiting supporters, Ireland - emboldened by one of boss Staunton's legendary half-time speeches - went for the jugular in the second half. The breakthrough soon came.

Finnan whipped in a vicious cross from the right, to which Stephen Ireland got a flick-on, before Kevin Kilbane arrived at the back post to apply a thumping forehead to finish. The crowd erupted in approval, and not just the away fans. Many of the home support were so taken with the character of the plucky visitors that they could only applaud such a well-crafted goal.

Ireland were not satisfied, however. On they marched, utterly dominant at this stage. Stephen Hunt, on for the mesmeric Kilbane, hit the post late on, but it seemed certain that the second was on the way.

However, the road to Austria and Switzerland is not without its dangerous diversions and Ireland were dealt a cruel blow in the 85th minute.

The dangerous home side sprang into attack and Marani managed to bamboozle Irish keeper Wayne Henderson and centre-half Paul McShane (sprung masterfully from the bench by Staunton at half-time) and knock in an undeserved equaliser.

The home fans and players alike celebrated wildly, but underneath their elation must have been relief, and a little embarassment at the prospect of snatching an undeserved point.

But they did not count on the acumen of the man on the Irish bench. Staunton had replaced young striker Shane Long with Anthony Stokes and it was the Sunderland man who poked the ball in to Stephen Ireland's path for the winner - and provoked jubilation in the stands.

The boos from the crowd were evidence of the home fans' displeasure with their team, but on another famous night in the annals of Irish soccer history, the Staunton revolution continues - and only a fool wouldn't know exactly where this team are heading.

San Marino: Aldo Simoncini, Carlo Valentini, Manuel Marani, Albani, Davide Simoncini, Muccioli, Bonini (Vannucci 76), Domeniconi (Bugli 88), Michele Marani, Selva, Gasperoni (Andreini 66).Subs Not Used: Federico Valentini, Ciacci, Nanni, Vitaioli.
Booked: Davide Simoncini, Selva.

Rep of Ireland: Henderson, Finnan, Dunne, O'Shea (McShane 45), Harte (Hunt 74), Duff, Carsley, Ireland, Kilbane, Long (Stokes 80), Keane.Subs Not Used: Colgan, Alan Quinn, Keogh, Gibson.

Att: 3,294

Ref: Peter Rasmussen (Denmark).

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this article a piss take?

10:39 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry, I just read saw the first two paragraphs originally, its clearer now ;)

10:42 a.m.  
Blogger Tom the Tim said...

Seems like your subtlety is too subtle sometimes.

You should put a big clown's face or something before one of your ironic/send-up articles.

I blame the Gaelscoils.:>)

12:21 p.m.  
Blogger A Northsider On The South Terrace said...

Far more entertaining Tom than anything I've read on the subject this week. Good work again Tom even if I don't go alway with everything!! ;-)

6:27 p.m.  
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