The Republic of Ireland welcomed their visitors, England, to a warm and sunny Dublin for the first time in 20 years. There was a lot of talk in the build up to this fixture regarding the last time the English supporters were in town. Fortunately, the atmosphere this time around in the stands was less volatile. The same could be said on the pitch, as both teams played out a dull scoreless draw that failed to thrill those in attendance at the Aviva Stadium.
The first half was a pretty drab affair but the Boys in Green were the first to go on the attack. Straight from the kick-off the Irish worked the ball into the box, with striker, David McGoldrick having an effort on goal deflected wide by an English defender. The game did not pick up again until the second quarter when Aiden McGeady whipped in a cross from the edge of the box towards McGoldrick, who just couldn’t connect his head to the ball correctly.
It was the Irish who dominated the second quarter of the game, with a few clear-cut chances to put them ahead. Daryl Murphy had two great chances to get on the score sheet. His first, after working his way into the box, he shot low and hard but his effort sailed past, not only England ‘keeper, Joe Hart, but also past the far upright. The second chance came from a Robbie Brady free kick. The whip in came in perfectly for the Ipswich Town striker but he couldn’t connect to it properly and his attempt went wide, not troubling the English defence.
England also had a few chances on goal. Their best effort coming just before half time as Adam Lallana worked his way to the edge of the box. His long-range effort just went over a stretching Kieren Westwood and the crossbar.
The game came to life in the second half and it was England who had the first real attempt at goal. A mistake by defender Marc Wilson gifted Jordan Henderson the ball. The midfielder then laid it off to Wayne Rooney. However, the captain couldn’t get the proper first touch and balled rolled toward a relieved Westwood. A lucky escape for the Irish.
There were numerous chances for both teams throughout the half. Brady troubled Hart with a free kick from the edge of the box. The Manchester City ‘keeper wasn’t able to collect the ball. Instead, it bounced off his chest and out for an Irish corner. Rooney also had a half chance with a free kick on the edge of the area. The captain’s effort, however, was caught by Westwood.
England’s best effort was left to substitute, Andros Townsend. The Spurs man cracked the ball with force just outside of the area. His shot troubled substitute keeper Shay Given, who could only parry the effort.
Harry Arter, making his senior international debut as a substitute, also had a chance on goal. After working the ball forward, the midfielder tried an effort on goal rather then lay the ball to a teammate. His effort didn’t trouble Hart as it flew across the box and past the goal.
The game fizzled out towards the end, apart from a few lame efforts from Ross Barkley, which didn’t trouble the Irish defence. It was to end as yet another draw between these sides, the eighth in total.
Speaking after the game, Republic of Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill said the game was good preparation ahead of next week’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland. “It was exactly what we needed. I thought in the last fifteen minutes we were pretty tired looking. We started off brightly in the game and maybe we could have scored a couple of goals. We certainly had a couple of decent chances. Overall, it was good for us and from a physical viewpoint, it couldn’t have been better timed,” said the Irish manager.
O’Neill also suggested the game allowed him to experiment and bring in new faces. “I think that what you do, is you ask the players to give you some problems to try and solve between now and Saturday. Some new faces as well, with Daryl Murphy coming in and eventually, Harry Arter getting on the field of play. So just overall, players to go and try and perform because it is their last opportunity to do so. I think it was a very decent response,” said O’Neill.
Regarding his thoughts on next week’s starting eleven against Scotland, the manager refused to give any details on who might start. Talking about next week’s fixture, O’Neill said, “I will see how the player’s came out of the game physically and certainly during the course of the week we will try and step up training. I was hoping at one stage that I could have got Wes Hoolahan on the field. He has played a number of games and he came late into the squad because he was getting some tests done. While, I’m sure it would have been nice for him to play the last twenty odd minutes, we had run out of substitutes.”
England manager, Roy Hodgson, shared O’Neill’s sentiments that the game was a warm up ahead of the next week’s qualifiers. “I think it was a game both teams needed after the season ending for most of them a good couple of weeks ago or in some cases three weeks ago,” said the England manager.
Hodgson was delighted that the match passed off without incident and that. He also suggested that the Irish will be the happier of the two teams with the result. “The positives for me, were harder to find I think, than they would have been for Martin. Two obvious positives were, the spirit in which the game was played. Competitive, I think both teams were trying to win and the atmosphere in the stadium and the behaviour of the sets of fans was a remarkable positive because it hasn’t always been that way,” said Hodgson.
Asked for a prediction for next week’s match between Republic of Ireland and Scotland, the English manager said, “I think it is going to be a really ding-dong battle next week. I think it is going to be very competitive, very exciting. Obviously, more exciting than today’s game because today’s game was only a friendly. In the game next Saturday, every time the ball is bouncing in your box or the Scottish box, Martin and his staff and Gordon and his staff are going to be really excited, as will the fans. The only prediction I can safely make is that it will be a very, very tight game, very fiercely contested and I don’t expect it to be a 5-4. I expect it more to be a 1-0 or a 2-1.”
The Republic of Ireland will take some positives looking ahead to a crucial Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland next Saturday as they defended well against an undefeated side in qualifiers, who have scored fifteen goals in five games. John O’Shea is the only injury doubt for the Boys in Green. The Sunderland defender has a problem with his calf but O’Neill is hopeful that he can shake it off in time for next week’s game.
Meanwhile, England will be hoping to continue their undefeated streak in Group E of Euro 2016 qualifiers, as they face second placed Slovenia, away, next Sunday.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Westwood (Given 60′), Wilson, Coleman, O’Shea (C) (McShane 71′), McCarthy (McClean 45′), Hendrick, Whelan (Arter 63′), McGeady, Brady, Murphy (Walters 55′), McGoldrick (Long 45′)
Substitutes: Forde, Randolph, Keogh, Christie, Pearce, Ward, Quinn, Meyler, Hoolahan
ENGLAND: Hart, Jones, Bertrand, Henderson, Cahill (Jagielka 73′), Smalling, Wilshere (Barkley 65′), Milner, Sterling (Townsend 65′), Rooney (C) (Vardy 73′), Lallana (Walcott 82′)
Substitutes: Green, Heaton, Gibbs, Delph, Austin, Cleverley, Clyne
Referee: Arnold Hunter (Northern Ireland)