Robbie Seals His Goodbye With A Goal

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Robbie Keane

It was the night that the Republic of Ireland said goodbye to one of its true legends. After 146 caps and 68 goals for his country, Robbie Keane wore the famous green jersey for the last time. Ireland’s record goalscorer came into this match needing a single goal to equal Gerd Müller’s tally in the all-time international goalscorer list. 4 goals and he would have broken the top 10. One goal was all that was needed as the Irish captain sent the crowd into a frenzy. It was all that the crowd, press, the management and Keane himself wanted – the perfect send off.

The Irish captain was knocking on the door in the early stages of the game and came close a couple of times. The best of the bunch being a chip over Oman goalkeeper, Faiz Al Rushaidi after a one-on-one. However, the effort just went inches over the bar. It would have been the perfect goal and send off for the Keane. However, he wasn’t to be denied. Already a goal up after a splendid Robbie Brady free-kick in the seventh minute, Keane scored with a nice little volley after lifting the ball over defender Mabrook with his right foot and without taking his eyes off the ball, he connected again with his right foot and there was nothing Al Rushaidi could do as the back hit the back of the net.

Robbie Brady was again getting in on the action and was instrumental in the third goal. His cross in from the left met the head of Walters and it sailed again into the back of the net. The Boys in Green were now in flight mode against their Asian opponents.

Half times saw a number of changes for the home side including Darren Randolph replacing Kieran Westwood between the sticks. A debut cap is still on hold for Dundalk’s Gary Rogers. It could be suggested that tonight’s friendly against such weakened opposition, it would have been ideal for O’Neill to give the keeper some invaluable international experience.

The second half much like the rest of the first half after the third goal went in, was the Irish controlling the game in cruise control. Oman never looked like threatening the Irish goal and the Irish fans kept themselves entertained throughout the rest of the match by recreating Iceland’s now famous “Viking Thunder Clap” and belting out “Oh-Ah Paul McGrath” when the man himself appeared on the big screens in the stadium.

However, the best roar of the night was saved for the man of the hour as Robbie Keane was replaced before the hour mark. All 27,0000 or so who came to wave him off, gave him a standing ovation with a chorus of “Keano!” added in for good measure. It was truly the end of one of the most spectacular international careers in Irish footballing history. The emotion did not override the Tallaght man as he walked off the pitch realising this was the last time he would wear the green shirt of Ireland.

Not long after Keane’s departure, Ireland wrapped up the goals with Jon Walters getting his second of the game. The Stoke forward dribbled past the Oman keeper. His shot from a tight angle went between a defender’s legs before rolling into the net. It was a nice finish to the goal and will no doubt boost Walters confidence going into the game next week against Serbia.

At the final whistle, Keane gave a farewell speech to crowd thanking them for their support throughout the years. Undoubtedly, his spotlight was stolen, all but temporarily, by his youngest son, Hudson. Keane Jr. had the crowd in the palm of his hands as he tried to steal the microphone from his Dad. A chorus of boos rained down as Hudson was removed so the man of the hour could keep talking to his audience.

Keane walked down the tunnel, passing through a guard of honour of his now former teammates. Robbie showed no emotion throughout, admitting at the press conference after that it will probably take a few weeks for it to sink in that he is no longer a Republic of Ireland player.

He was grateful to manager, Martin O’Neill for giving him one last opportunity to pull on the jersey in front of the home crowd. O’Neill, in turn, was happy with the send off his captain received from the home crowd. He praised his international career and believed his goal scoring record won’t be broken for a long time.

The focus now shifts to the trip to Belgrade and the first of the 2018 World Cup qualifying games against Serbia. The manager and players alike will be in a buoyant mood ahead of Monday. They are well aware that this will be a tough group and an away win will be a great start to a long campaign.

REP. OF IRELAND: Westwood (Randolph 45′), Christie, Wilson, Clark, Brady (Ward 45′), Quinn (O’Dowda 64′), Whelan (Hendrick 45′), Arter, Long (McClean 45′), Keane (C) (Hoolahan 57′), Walters

Substitutes: Rogers, Keogh, Murphy, Meyler, Pearce, McShane, O’Kane
Goals: Brady (7′), Keane (29′), Walters (33′, 62′)
Yellow Cards: Wilson (70′)

Oman: Al Rushaidi, Almukhaini, Al Muqbali (Aal Sbdulsalam 87′), Al Saadi, Al Mushaifri (Al Mukhain 45′), Bait, Al Khaldi, Mabrook, Al Malki (Al Shuabi 75′), Saleh, Al Shyadi

Substitutes: Al Rawahi, Al Habsi, E.M. Al Farsi, Al Maashari, Al Fazari, Al Busaidi, Al Jalaboubi, Al Yacqubi, Al Alwai, Al Ghassani, Al Amri, Alfarsi
Yellow Cards: Al Saadi (50′)

Referee: Demetries Masias (CYP)

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Walters books Ireland’s place in France

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Republic of Ireland

Jonathan Walters booked the Republic of Ireland’s place at next summer’s European Championship in France with a fine display against a lacklustre Bosnian side in Dublin on Monday night. After a solid performance last week in Sarajevo, Martin O’Neill’s men that either a goalless draw or a win would seal their destiny. It was to be the Stoke man’s night as his two goals secured the plane tickets and consecutive appearances in the European Championship for the first time.

The Boys in Green were the dominant team in the first half. They looked comfortable on the ball and their passing was close to being perfect. The visitors on the other hand looked uncomfortable and at times it seemed as if they had trouble settling into the game.

The Irish showed some glimpses of class in the early stages of the half. Robbie Brady played a nice one-two with Wes Hoolahan on the left side of box. They managed to put the defence on the back foot but unfortunately, Asmir Begovic was on hand to prevent the ball returning to Hoolahan, who had some space to shoot. 

Martin O’Neill’s men were definitely up for it and they kept pouncing at the Bosnian defence, putting them under pressure and forcing mistakes. The Bosnian’s also showed they were no pushovers with some aggressive play within the half. Defender, Emir Spahic showed that his side was unwilling just to sit back throughout the 90 minutes. Half way through first 45 minutes, the Hamburg defender clattered into Jeff Hendrick to the floor. The referee had no problem reaching into his pocket and pulling out the first yellow card of the night.

Then the big talking point of the game happened. Daryl Murphy attempted to whip in a cross into the box. However, his effort was blocked by the hand of Erwin Zukanovic. Referee Bjorn Kulpers had no hesitation to point to the spot for a penalty. Walters stepped up confidently, sending former teammate, Begovic the wrong way and slotting the ball into the bottom left hand corner.

The Irish returned to the pitch for the second half and seemed to drop the pace initially. The visitors began to pile on some pressure in an attempt to make the tie all square. Bosnia also turned up the aggression as well. Sead Kolasinac seemed to strike defender Seamus Coleman in the face while walking away from a failed corner attempt. The referee missed the incident but gave a free kick nonetheless.

Spahic was also involved in some controversial incidents and the defender was lucky to still be on the pitch after some late challenges. Ireland were also lucky to have 11 men on the pitch after the final whistle. Substitute James McClean, was booked not long after coming on to the pitch and made some questionable challenges despite already having his name in the referee’s book.

Walters then added Ireland’s second goal of the night. Brady, whose set pieces had been mixed all night, whipped in a free kick from towards the area. The Bosnian defence tried to clear the attempt but ball landed at the feet of striker, Walters, who fired the ball low and past Begovic. The home crowd went wild as it hit home that Ireland were on their way to France next summer.

The visitors were quiet for the rest of the game. Their game was sloppy at times and they failed to trouble the Irish. Vedad Ibisevic came close in injury time to getting a goal back, however, his effort cracked off the woodwork. The Irish were not to denied the win and a clean sheet to match.

With qualification now secured, attention will turn to the draw in Paris on December 12th. The team and fans alike will be glued to their TVs to see who the Irish will face next summer – the dream of Whelan vs. Ronaldo is well and truly alive!

REP. OF IRELAND: Randolph, Coleman, Keogh, Clark, Brady, Hendrick, Whelan (C) (O’Shea 91′), McCarthy, Hoolahan (McClean 54′), Murphy (Long 54′), Walters

Substitutes: Forde, Henderson, Wilson, McGeady, Keane, Christie, Ward, Gibson, Arter
Goals: Walters (23′, 69′)
Yellow Cards: McClean (58′), Long (84′)

BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA: Begovic, Cocalic (Besic 45′), Spahic, Kolasinac, Vranjes, Medunjanin (Djuric 69′), Pjanic, Dzeko (C), Lulic (Ibisevic 80′), Zukanovic, Visca

Substitutes: Buric, Sehic, Bicakcic, Hodzic, Susic, Sunjic, Hajrovic, Hadzic, Salihovic
Yellow Cards: Spahic (19′), Lulic (24′), Djuric (93′), Dzeko (93′)

Referee: Bjorn Kulpers (NED)

Ireland overcome tricky Georgia

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Republic of Ireland team celebrate

Republic of Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill, admitted that his side will need to find a win in their next two matches, against Germany and Poland respectively, to secure at least a playoff spot for next summers European Championship finals in France despite earning three points over Georgia in Dublin on Monday night.

The pace in the first half suggested this game was a friendly rather than an important European Championship qualifier. Both sides had chances but didn’t seem to have that killer instinct in front of goal. Ireland had the first real effort on goal early in the game. Wes Hoolahan worked his way into the box and played a lovely one-two with Jon Walters in the box before delivering a cross that was met by the foot of a diving Robbie Keane. The captain couldn’t connect with the ball correctly and his effort sailed over the crossbar, not troubling Georgia’s keeper, Nukri Revishvili.

Georgia fired back though and striker, Levan Mchedlidze had a couple efforts on goal but they were cleared with ease by the Irish defence. The visitors did have a few more efforts at Irish defence though. Their best effort came midway through the first half. Giorgi Navalovsky whipped in a cross that was met by Tornike Okriashvili, who attempted an audacious bicycle kick. His effort though didn’t connect and the ball dribbled wide.

It was deep into the first half that Ireland had their best effort of the game. After some back and forth in the Georgian box. The ball landed to Seamus Coleman. The Everton defender hit a half volley. His strike had some power behind it and it troubled Revishvili who could only punch the ball away.

The home side made the only change at half time. O’Neill decided to withdraw Keane and replace him with Shane Long up front. Jon Walters seemed to shift into a right side of midfield. The game did pick up in pace and the Irish were on top of the game and put pressure on the visitors from the whistle.

The Irish had numerous efforts on goal but they couldn’t get the power behind the shots. Coleman again had another effort to get on the score sheet. After working well to force his way into the Georgian area, the right back took a shot on goal. His effort was too soft though and was easily collected by Georgia’s keeper.

James McCarthy also failed to capitalise with his efforts on goal. The midfielder had a couple of chances on the edge of the box but he fluffed both efforts and they flew past the goal. McCarthy did not disguise his disgust at both efforts and he knows that he should have done better.

Then came the moment that defined the game. Jeff Hendrick starting from the left side of the pitch moved in and around the Georgian defence, something that resembled to Lionel Messi. He then reached the goal line and cut a short pass to Jon Walters. His effort seemed to deflect off a Georgian defender and rolled into the back of the net. You could see what the goal meant to the Stoke striker. He dashed towards the Irish fans to celebrate what is an important goal in Group D.

Georgia were forced to play the last 10 minutes with 10 men as they lost striker Mchedlidze to what seemed like a hamstring injury. The visitors still pressed for an equaliser late on but could not avail. Loud cheers from the stands greeted the final whistle. This result was another twist in the tale that has been the Euro 2016 qualifiers.

Speaking after the game, O’Neill expressed his delight at coming away with three points from what was a tricky game. “We found a way to win in the second half. I thought we were very tentative in the first half. I’m not sure why we should be, having won on Friday. I thought we lacked energy in the first half and consequently created very little and that was a bit of a worry. The players came out strongly in the second half and we deserved to get the goal and we deserved to win the game,” said the Irish manager.

With world champions, Germany set to visit Dublin next month and a visit to Poland not long after, there is set to be more drama in what has turned out to be an interesting qualifying campaign. As O’Neill mentioned, a win in the final two games would all but secure at least a play off position for the Boys in Green, something one would not have expected after the fixture against Scotland in Dublin earlier this summer. However, that will not be an easy task against the two top teams in this group.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Given, Coleman, O’Shea, Clark,Brady, Whelan, McCarthy, Hoolahan (McClean 74′), Hendrick, Keane (C) (Long 45′), Walters

Substitutes: Forde, Randolph,Wilson, McGeady, Meyler, Doyle, Christie, Ward, Quinn, Keogh

Goal: Walters (69′)

Yellow Cards: Whelan (74′), McClean (76′)

GEORGIA: Revishvili, Lobzhanidze, Kverkvelia, Kashia (Tsintsadze 75′), Amisulashvili, Khizanishvili (Kenia 80′), Kankava (C), Kazaishvili (Papunashvili 64′), Okriashvili, Navalovsky, Mchedlidze

Substitutes: Loria, Makaridze, Kakabadze, Popkhadze, Merebashvili, Tskhadadze, Vatsadze, Daushvili

Referee: István Vad (Hungary)

Scotland break Irish hearts in Dublin

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Robbie Brady

The tame boos from the Irish fans were sounded out by the deafening cheers of the Scottish contingent at the final whistle at the Aviva Stadium as the visitors put a huge dent into Republic of Ireland’s hopes of qualifying for next summer’s European Championship in France. After dominating the first half, a lapse in concentration handed a priceless draw and point to Scotland in Group D.

The first half was fast paced with both teams starting brightly. The Irish were the first to have a crack at goal, after just two minutes, with Jeff Hendrick’s cross attempt collected by David Marshall.

The Scots followed two minutes later with their first effort. Stoke defender, Marc Wilson mistimed his pass to Jeff Hendrick and the ball was picked up by James Morrison. The Scottish midfielder worked his way up the pitch before passing to Steven Naismith. The Everton man’s attempt went across the box and ultimately wide.

The Scot’s best effort in the first half came from Steven Fletcher after just 10 minutes. The striker had the ball from about 20 yards out and hit it with some power that it forced Republic of Ireland keeper, Shay Given to stretch high and use the tips of his fingers to guide the ball over the crossbar.

Tempers flared at times. The game was hardly 10 minutes old, when James McCarthy went in hard on Scotland captain, Scott Brown. The latter was unimpressed by the younger midfielder’s antics and he wasn’t shy to express those feelings. Nonetheless, McCarthy escaped any punishment from the referee and was let off with a warning.

Glenn Whelan followed soon after. However, this time the yellow card was shown by the referee. The Stoke man caught Fletcher with a late standing tackle. McCarthy was again involved in a fracas and was punished accordingly, with a yellow card, after throwing an elbow into the face of Russell Martin. The Scottish defender was left with a cut on the bridge of his nose.

Then came the moment Irish fans were hoping for. After Marshall tipped over a Daryl Murphy header, Robbie Brady swung in the resulting corner. Again it met the head of Murphy. This time his effort landed straight at Marshall who could only parry the effort. The ball landed right at the feet of Jon Walters. The Irish forward only had to tap the ball into the net. He precisely did so and put the Boys in Green ahead just before the break.

The lead wasn’t to last long though. Scotland equalised just after the restart. Shaun Maloney played a lovely one-two with half time substitute Ikechi Anya in the box. Maloney then attempted to the curl the ball to the bottom left of the goal. The ball deflected off Irish captain John O’Shea and sailed past Given. The goal stunned the home fans as they had seen their team throw away a deserved lead.

The game then went full speed as both teams looked for the winner. The Scottish seemed to hold on the ball that bit better than the Irish. They constantly pushed forward at every opportunity that was afforded to them.

The Irish on the other hand, failed to use their opportunities. Robbie Brady, in particular, was poor with his crosses. The Hull City man hit some of them high and wide, especially at points in the game when the team needed balls delivered accurately into the box.

Ireland had a good opportunity on the 75th minute when substitute Robbie Keane got the ball and dummied the Scottish defence, leaving space open to fire a shot. He put a lot of power and accuracy behind the effort. Unfortunately, the ball went straight into the hands of Marshall.

Another Republic of Ireland substitute, James McClean also had a good chance to put the Irish ahead again, from a corner. The Derry man, worked to get the space and put himself high to meet Brady’s ball. However, while the effort connected, the ball went wide off the upright.

McClean was also part of one of the last significant incidents of the game. The Wigan Athletic midfielder, unimpressed with a decision given against his side, got into a war of words with Steven Naismith. It appeared as if McClean grazed his head against Naismith’s. The referee came over to separate the two and gave a yellow card to each player for their troubles.

Speaking after the game, Republic of Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill expressed his disappointed with conceding the equaliser to Scotland. However, he stressed that his side are still in with a chance of qualifying for next summer’s tournament in France.

“I thought we were very dominant in the first half. We deserved to be in front. We absolutely fell asleep for the [equalising] goal even though it was going miles wide. Just after half time, we should have closed it down on three different occasions. I thought Scotland got a big lift from that. I thought their best spell was after that, for 10 minutes. I thought we pulled ourselves round and I thought we were going to win it in the end. We didn’t and I am obviously disappointed not to have won,” said O’Neill.

The manager also looked back on his 18 months in charge and is happy with how things have been going for the Boys in Green. “There are a number of players coming through, which, I’m obviously delighted with. However, let us see where we are at the end of the campaign,” O’Neill concluded.

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan, lamented his side’s second half performance, which helped them secure a point in Dublin.

“For all you say about systems, we couldn’t get ours working. Whether it’s through Ireland pressing, the physical strength. They are a big team. Maybe that stopped us or maybe it was our lack of match fitness. So, we took a look at it at half time and we moved a couple of people about. We never had a chance to see if our system worked. All I know is, a very good player [Maloney] scored a wonderful goal again. A very good player has got us a point,” said the Scottish manager.

Strachan was also impressed by the intensity of match considering it was at the end of the season. He also wouldn’t comment on the group standing saying that “you never know what the points are going to be to get you to qualify.” The Scottish manager, to the amusement of the Irish press, congratulated the referee on his performance and said he was “terrific the whole game” and he helped add intensity to the game.

The Republic of Ireland now have a real fight on their hands to make the Euro finals next summer. They currently sit in fourth place, three points behind today’s visitors. They will travel to Gibraltar next, in early September, followed by a home fixture against Georgia.

Scotland, on the other hand, will face Georgia away, followed by a home fixture in Hampden Park against World champions, Germany, 3 days later. They now sit second in Group D, a point ahead of Germany, who have a game in hand against Gibraltar.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Given, Coleman, Wilson, O’Shea (C), Brady, Hendrick, Whelan (McClean 67′), McCarthy, Hoolahan (Keane 73′) , Walters, Murphy (Long 80′)

Substitutes: Forde, Westwood, Keogh, McGeady, Meyler, Christie, Ward, Quinn, McGoldrick

Goals: Walters (38′)
Yellow Cards: Whelan (19′), McCarthy (30′), McClean (88′)

SCOTLAND: Marshall, Hutton, Martin, Mulgrew, Forsyth, Ritchie (Anya 45′), Brown (C) (McArthur 84′), Morrison, Naismith (Berra 91′), Maloney, S.Fletcher

Substitutes: Gordon, Samson, Whittaker, D.Fletcher, Adam, Greer, Robertson, Forrest, Griffiths

Goals: O’Shea (OG 46′)
Yellow Cards: Naismith (88′)

Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (Italy)

Inferior Ireland suffer defeat in intense Scottish fixture

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Aiden McGeady

Original article appears on Pundit Arena.

It was not the homecoming Republic of Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill expected as his side lost 1-0 to Scotland at Celtic Park in what was a fiery encounter. A beautiful curled shot from Shaun Maloney separated the sides in this crucial Euro 2016 qualifier. The former Celtic manager and his current side will be disappointed to drop points in this tie but over the ninety minutes the home side proved why they deserved all three points.

A short corner from Maloney and a poor defensive effort from the Irish let him drift into the box and complete a beautiful one-two with Scott Brown, which included a fine back heel pass from the Scottish captain, and the Wigan Athletic midfielder finished off the move with a well placed shot into the bottom right hand corner of the net.

McGeady intimidated at former home

The pre-match build-up was marred by some controversies including former Scottish international Gordon McQueen calling for the home fans to give Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy a “horrible” reception. With the latter injured, it was left to McGeady to face the home reception. It didn’t take long for the home crowd to show their displeasure at the former Celtic player.

McGeady looked shaky at times as if overawed by the occasion. Booked early on the game for a challenge from behind on Steven Fletcher, McGeady gave away possession on a few occasions and was close to getting booked for a second time towards the end of the match for dissent when he crept close to a Scottish free kick.

He did show some good passages of play in the early part of the second half. The pick of the bunch being a shot at the edge of the box. The ball looked as if it was heading for the bottom right hand corner but was saved by Scottish keeper David Marshall.

Good Scottish offence

The Scottish started the game at full pace, attacking the Irish defence with any chance they got. They almost took an early lead when Maloney sent a cross into the box and was met by Fletcher. The Sunderland forward had an free header but his effort went over the bar.

The Scots also had some luck. They could have gone down to 10 men before half time when Grant Hanley, already booked for a tackle on Shane Long, which was possibly a red card, looked to have elbowed Irish goalkeeper David Forde. However, he was given the benefit of the doubt by the referee.

The Irish started the second half with a bit more pace and swagger about them. They attacked the Scottish goal on numerous occasion, however, Marshall was on form and wasn’t to be denied a clean sheet.

The best effort from the Irish was from a James McClean corner that was met by the head of Jon Walters. The Stoke man’s header met the head of Long, whose effort at goal was stopped by Marshall again after the ball went straight into his hands, killing the attack.

The Scots also went on the attack and were close to going ahead when Steven Naismith was allowed to work the ball into the box and pass to Chris Martin. The Derby County striker’s shot just went wide of the goal.

Martin’s club teammate, Jeff Hendrick was lucky not to be sent off after a silly push on Naismith. The free kick was met by the head of Walters and crashed off the crossbar and out. The resulting corner was the what killed the game. The Irish defence was caught napping and allowed Maloney and Brown the space to pull off a great one-two and for Maloney to cap it off with a wonderful goal.

Robbie Keane, dropped from the starting eleven was brought on after the goal to try and make an impact on the game but it led to nothing as Scotland got a vital three points and place themselves in third place in Group D, one place ahead of the Irish.

O’Neill disappointed but backs players

Speaking after the game, the Irish manager discussed his disappointed about the score line but seemed to be upbeat about his team’s overall performance. “For the away side, I thought we were dealing with things reasonably well and the goal’s naturally a disappointment to us but it’s far from failure,” said O’Neill.

Discussing the goal, O’Neill conceded that his side allowed the home side have too much time on the ball rather than closing them down. “It wasn’t a case were they [Scotland] acted very, very quickly. There were three, four, five, six seconds there and we should have seen the danger. They had two men out for it and naturally, we should have had two, we did eventually but the third man was always a spare for them and we didn’t deal with that situation,” said the manager.

With seven points on the board from a possible twelve, the Republic of Ireland can say they are still in the mix for one of the top 3 places. However, the squad will be bitterly disappointed that they could not build on their performance from Gelsenkirchen last month and claim at least another point away from home, in what would have been a certain boost to morale ahead of the next competitive fixture against group leaders Poland in the Aviva Stadium next March.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Forde, Coleman, O’Shea (C), Keogh, Ward, McGeady, Hendrick (Keane 78′), Gibson (Quinn 68′), McClean, Long (Brady 68′), Walters

Substitutes: Randolph, Given, Clark, Christie, Meyler, Pilkington, McGoldrick, Pearce, Murphy
Yellow Cards: McGeady (15′), Hendrick (30′), Coleman (59′),Quinn (90′),

SCOTLAND: Marshall, Whittaker, R.Martin, Hanley, Robertson, Maloney, Mulgrew, Brown (C), S.Fletcher (C.Martin 56′), Naismith, Anya (D.Fletcher 88′)

Substitutes: Gordon, Gilks, Berra, Dorrans, Bannan, Greer, Burke, Russell, May, C.Martin
Goals: Maloney (75′)
Yellow Cards: Hanley (12′), Robertson (82′)

Referee: Milorad Mažić (Serbia)

Man of the Match: Jon Walters