Long the hero on famous night in Dublin

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Republic of Ireland team celebrate

It was a historic night in Dublin, as the Republic of Ireland beat the odds to inflict a 1-0 defeat on World Champions, Germany in Group D of the Euro 2016 qualifiers. Substitute Shane Long scored a terrific goal that left the destiny of the Boys in Green in their own hands. A win or 2-2 or higher scoring draw against Poland on Sunday will see Martin O’Neill’s men qualify automatically to next summer’s finals in France.

The first half was all the visitors. Germany were pressing hard against the Irish defence and practically owned the ball for the first quarter of the game. Jérôme Boateng had an early effort to put the Germans a goal up within the first ten minutes. The Bayern Munich midfielder had plenty of time to get his head on the ball from a corner. Fortunately, his effort sailed over the crossbar. An early escape for Ireland.

The Boys in Green got another lucky escape in the 19th minute. Thomas Müller was given a lot of time with the ball on the left hand side of the pitch. The striker picked out Arsenal man Mesut Özil who tipped the ball just right and it crept past Shay Given and into the back of the net. However, the Germans didn’t have time to celebrate as the assistant’s flag was raised for an offside. It was a terrific decision by the linesman as the midfielder drifted past the Irish defence’s high line.

The Irish failed to press forward except for the odd chance. One of the funnier moments of the half occurred when Wes Hoolahan picked up the ball at the halfway line but could not spot a green jersey to pass to. The Norwich winger did something one would do if playing FIFA on the Playstation…he ran around in a small circle until someone was available.

The Irish did have a few efforts on goal. The best of the (very small) bunch, began with a nice one-two between Hoolahan and Jon Walters. Walters then tried to slip the ball low and past Manuel Neuer but was undone by the German defence who blocked the effort.

There was also disappointed towards the end of the first half. After keeping the visitors at bay, keeper, Shay Given was forced off with what looked like a bad leg injury. The vetern was replaced by Darren Randolph between the Irish posts. The early diagnosis is a twisted knee but there is no update on his availability for Sunday as of writing.

The Irish team came out of the second half with an extra spring in their step. It was as if there was a belief on the field that they could shock their illustrious visitors. However, it was the Germans who had the first good crack at goal. Marco Reus swung in a lovely ball towards Andre Schürrle. The substitute cracked the ball but the effort just sailed over the crossbar.

The Irish then started to make themselves known in the game. They started to move the ball about and at times showed some quality play in an effort to keep possession. Wes Hoolahan and James McCarthy showed their worth with strong performances in the middle of the pitch. McCarthy kept the world champions at bay with some fine tackles, while Hoolahan helped to move the ball forward and create chances in and around the German area.

However, it was down to substitute Long who won the game for the Irish. Darren Randolph’s long ball down the middle of the field, was met by the Southampton striker who brought down the ball and knocked past the defence and blasted it past an oncoming Neuer and into the top left hand corner of the net. The crowd in the Aviva went mad. The reception to this goal was like that of Jason McAteer’s against Holland in 2001 at the old Lansdowne Road. The roar was deafening and the Irish fans were on their feet chanting for the rest of the game. Finally, the “best fans in the world” found their voice.

Speaking after the game, Irish manager Martin O’Neill was obviously delighted to win the game and wasn’t going to think about the Poland game until Friday morning. “I’m ecstatic that we have won the game. You would think that beating the Germans and not being beaten by them at all, taking on the World Champions, would be worth at least deserving to win the tournament but that is not the case,” joked the Irish manager.

With the win, Ireland have secured at least a play off place as they edge towards qualification to France. There will be a big belief in the Irish camp, that they can go to Warsaw and steal three points and an automatic qualifying place from hosts, Poland. In the meantime, they will be soaking up this big win in the Irish capital.

REP. OF IRELAND: Given (Randolph 43′), Christie, Keogh, O’Shea (C), Ward (Meyler 69′), Hendrick, McCarthy, Brady, Hoolahan, Walters, Murphy (Long 65′)

Substitutes: Forde, McShane, O’Kane, Pearce, McGoldrick, McGeady, Keane, Doyle, Gibson
Goals: Long (70′)
Yellow Cards: Hoolahan (89′)

GERMANY: Neuer (C), Ginter (Bellarabi 77′), Boateng, Hummels, Hector, Gündogan (Volland 84′), Kroos, Reus, Özil, Müller, Götze (Schürrle 35′)

Substitutes: Leno, ter Stegen, Mustafi, Rudy, Schweinsteiger, Can, Volland, Krammer, Kruse,
Yellow Cards: Hummels (85′)

Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo (ESP)

Attendance: 50,604

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Will memories of ’97 haunt The Old Lady?

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Juventus - Borussia Dortmund

Original article appears on Pundit Arena.

Tuesday night sees a rematch 18 years in the making when Juventus host Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 clashes. The last time these sides met they were vying to lift the famous trophy in the 1997 final in front of 59,000 fans in the Olmpiastadion, Munich.

The fall and rise of Borussia Dortmund

On that faithful night on the 28th May 1997, it was the underdogs, Dortmund, who came away with a 3-1 win and clinched their one and only Champions League title. That squad included former Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert, who provided the assist for the first goal of the match.

Since that night in Munich, both sides have faced turbulent times. In 2003, the German side were very close to bankruptcy and becoming extinct. Had they not received a €2 million loan from rivals Bayern Munich, the Ruhr club may not be around today. It was a fall from grace for a club that had won six Bundesliga titles up to that point and had to watch on while their fierce rivals went on to win five of the next eight titles until Dortmund regained the title in the 2010-11 season.

The side worked its way back up to the top of the Bundesliga mountain but hit some stumbling blocks including another period of financial uncertainty in 2005 and relegation battles in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons.

It wasn’t until a relevantly young manager named Jürgen Klopp, took over at the end of the 2007-08 season that Dortmund became a force once again, winning 2 Bundesliga titles (2010-11 and 2011-12), 2 German Super Cups (2013 and 2014) and 1 German Cup (2011-12) so far under the charismatic manager’s reign. They also reached their second Champions League final in the 2012-13 season. They faced a common enemy in Bayern Munich but the side were denied a fairy tale win, losing 2-1 at Wembley Stadium.

Juventus and the Calciopoli scandal

After the shock loss to Dortmund, Juventus went on to appear in two more Champions League finals, losing both matches, 1-0 to Real Madrid in 1998 and on penalties to AC Milan in 2003. During this period, ‘The Old Lady’ of Serie A was going through one of its most successful periods in its history, mostly under the reign of Marcello Lippi. In the 12 years between Lippi initially taking charge to the 2006 match fixing scandal, Juventus won the Serie A title seven times and were runner-ups three times. The two latter titles in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 were later stripped from the club due to their participation in the scandal (the 2005-06 title was later handed to Inter Milan, while the 2004-05 title was unassigned).

The match fixing scandal known as the ‘Calciopoli’ scandal rocked Italian football to its core in the early part of the summer of 2006. Five teams were implied in the scandal; Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio and Reggina. All received substantial punishment. Juventus were originally relegated to Serie C1 with a 30-point deduction making straightforward promotion all but impossible. However, on appeal, their punishment was changed to relegation to Serie B and a nine-point deduction, along with their 2005 and 2006 Serie A titles stripped, they were kicked out of the 2006-07 Champions League and they had to play three home games behind closed doors.

Their relegation resulted in numerous players leaving the Turin side including Fabio Cannavaro and Zlatan Ibrahimović. However, some players decided to stay and help the Bianconeri return to Serie A in their first attempt. They did just that with the help of the likes of Alessandro Del Piero, David Trézéguet and Gianluigi Buffon. Del Piero ended the 2006-07 Serie B season as top scorer with 20 goals.

Since their return to Serie A in the 2007-08 season, Juventus have only failed to finish outside the top three positions twice (seventh in both 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons). They clinched their first Serie A title in nine years in 2012 and have won it every season since.

Head-to-Head

These sides have met seven times in European competition including two finals (the 1992-93 UEFA Cup final was played over two legs). Juventus have 4 times, including both legs of the 92-93 UEFA Cup final, while Dortmund have defeated their Italian rivals twice and there has been the single draw.

The 1997 Champions League Final, is the match that everyone will be talking about though. It was arguably one of the biggest upsets in recent Champions League history. Two goals from striker Karl-Heinz Riedle and a beautiful long distance chip from Lars Ricken, 16 seconds after coming onto the pitch sealed victory for the German side with Del Piero adding a consolation goal for the Italians. Ricken also became the youngest goal scorer in a Champions League final at 20 years old with his sublime effort.

The 2014-15 squads paint a different picture though. Juventus are sitting atop of Serie A with a nine-point gap ahead of second place Roma. The Turin side have yet to lose at home this season, so the German side do have a challenge on their hands. The Old Lady have won three and drawn two in their last five fixtures.

They finished second in Group A behind Atlético Madrid and suffered a shock 1-0 loss on match day three away to Olympiacos. They also failed to defeat their Spanish rivals in two attempts, losing 1-0 at Estadio Vicente Calderón and drawing 0-0 at Juventus Stadium.

Their Serie A form has been exceptional. They have won 17 of their 24 games, drawing six and losing just once to Genoa back in October. They have scored 53 goals, conceding only 13.

On the other hand, Borussia Dortmund’s results have been mixed so far this season. They have performed particularly well in the Champions League but their Bundesliga form has been poor but has been picking up in recent weeks.

The German side topped Group D ahead of Arsenal. Dortmund stunned the Premier League side on match day one with a 2-0 win at the Westfalenstadion. The side won four games, only losing away to Arsenal 2-0 and drawing 1-1 at home to Belgian side Anderlecht.

Die Borussen currently sit in 12th position in the Bundesliga, 30 points behind leaders Bayern Munich and 10 points behind a Champions League position. Their domestic campaign has been poor to say the least. New signings, Ciro Immobile and Adrián Ramos still seem to be adapting to the side with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Marco Reus contributing most of their goals in Bundesliga.

However, the new signings have scored seven of Dortmund’s 14 Champions League goals so they may be called upon for this fixture. The Italian striker is a doubt for the game after contracting the flu that has struck other members of the squad including captain Mats Hummels but will be assessed before the match.

This is fixture is definitely a must watch for all those football hipsters. Sadly, UEFA decided to put it on the same day as the Manchester City and Barcelona clash, taking somewhat of the shine away from this affair. Nonetheless, it should be an interesting clash and one that may see the result slightly favour the home side in the first leg ahead of the return leg to Germany in three weeks time.