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Ireland suffer defeat against clinical Poland side

Friendly
Poland
Republic of Ireland
2 - 3 Poland
Stephen Hunt (pen) 88, Keith Andrews 90 Mariusz Lewandowski 3, Guerreiro 47, Robert Lewandowski 89
Thursday, 20 November 2008
Croke Park, Dublin

Ireland suffer defeat for first time under Trapattoni to clinical Poland side

A frantic late rally from the Republic of Ireland at Croke Park on Wednesday failed to prevent Poland inflicting the first defeat on the hosts since Giovanni Trapatoni took over the manager’s position seven months ago.

Poland led 2-0 as the game approached the final two minutes, through early strikes in each half by Mariusz Lewandowski and Brazilian born Roger Guerreiro, but the game erupted into life as the clock ticked down. Three goals were scored in a frantic climax before the final whistle shrilled.

It was a marvellous end to a lively and competitive match in which Poland looked more mature and well-balanced. Their neat inter-passing and clever support work extended Ireland and they embellished their work with three splendid goals.

The two second half strikes by Guerreiro and Robert Lewandowski were delivered with impressive power and authority and flew past Shay Given.

Ireland, in contrast, finished poorly for they had more than enough scoring chances to have saved the game. Sadly for Damien Duff he failed to take advantage of Ireland’s best chances and on another day he might have decorated his brilliant approach work with a hat-trick of goals.

As Ireland spurned their chances so Poland thrived and backed by the magnificent support of several thousand of their colourful and noisy fans, they proceeded to play football that was modern, constructive and speedy.

But Ireland refused to accept what had appeared evident from the third minute when the tall and powerful Mariusz Lewandowski climbed above the Irish defenders to head the opening goal. Ireland were never content to be second best.

So it was no surprise when finally Ireland’s swashbuckling rally led to such a dramatic and exciting conclusion to the match. Indeed they were a little unlucky not to claim a third goal and escape with a draw.

Stephen Hunt, on as substitute, smashed home a penalty shot with two minutes of regulation time left to make it 2-1 after his Reading colleague Shane Long had been tripped.

Within sixty seconds, however, Ireland’s momentum was checked again when substitute Robert Lewandowski blasted a superb left-footed shot high into Shay Given’s net to maintain a two-goal cushion.

Poland needed that breathing space because substitute Keith Andrews set up a grandstand finale when he rifled a tremendous half-volley from the edge of the area past Polish goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski as the contest moved into added time.

Kevin Kilbane had one last chance before the four extra minutes ended only for his left-footed volley to rebound off a Poland defender just as the shot from ten yards appeared goal-bound.

The exciting late blitz of goals provided a rousing finish to the game and ensured the fans had plenty to cheer about, even if it was obvious that the Poles had more reason to be excited.

Several thousand of Poland supporters were in the stadium early, seated mainly in the Cusack Stand. Their flags, bunting and singing brought a carnival air to proceedings and the players on both sides seemed to draw energy from the atmosphere. The game was contested at the pace of a World Cup eliminator.

The pace of the game, the quality of the goals and the fervent atmosphere ensured that the night was full of daring and exciting football. Perhaps the defensive work was not of the best, but that only added to the spectacle as chances were created repeatedly, and spurned, at both ends.

Poland set the mood when they struck within three minutes of kick-off, their captain Mariusz Lewandowski rising high in a crowded goalmouth to head in from a corner kick.

Ireland had a new centre-forward partnership with Caleb Folan replacing the injured Robbie Keane. Folan showed lots of promise and linked well with Kevin Doyle and Damien Duff to trouble Poland’s defence.

Duff was in after five minutes when Doyle and Folan combined to send him clear but his shot was over. Then Doyle sent Duff in with a glorious pass in the 29th minute but the winger shot into the side netting. Two minutes before the break Glenn Whelan and Folan again released Duff but his shot was across goal and wide.

Ireland looked capable of regaining equality but they were caught immediately after half-time when substitute Guerreiro fired home a spectacular left-foot shot after a sparkling bout of close passing as the Poles cut a path through the heart of Ireland's defence in the 47th minute.

Again Ireland had chances of getting back into the game, most notably when Folan ran clear from half-way down the middle of the pitch only to be robbed as he was in the act of shooting at the edge of the penalty area.

The Irish claimed in vain that Shane Long’s header from outside the far upright had crossed the line in the 85th minute. Stephen Hunt’s cross was met by Long and his header carried over goalkeeper Fabianski but was volleyed off the goal-line by Dudka when a goal seemed certain.

Ireland’s anxiety to secure the goal they needed to get back into the game meant they committed more players forward as the game aged and looked increasingly more vulnerable in defence as Poland hit on the breakaway.

Manager Giovanni Trapattoni will probably have learned more about his players from this defeat than from most of Ireland’s previous matches. He was without Robbie Keane and Aiden McGeady and he had to juggle his forces.

Caleb Folan, in his first start, played well enough to suggest that he offers a viable alternative up front while Shane Long and Stephen Hunt both made positive impacts when they came into the game.

Keith Andrews won his first cap in central midfield but needed more than the 17 minutes he was allotted to make a statement.

The manner in which he scored was encouraging as was Folan’s calmness in a frantic goalmouth when he controlled the ball and then turned it back for Andrews to drill home a half-volley from outside the box.
Republic of Ireland (4-4-2): Shay Given; Paul McShane (Alex Bruce 61), John O’Shea, Richard Dunne, Kevin Kilbane; Andy Keogh (Stephen Hunt 61), Darron Gibson (Keith Andrews 73), Glenn Whelan, Damien Duff (Shane Long 66); Kevin Doyle (Noel Hunt 60), Caleb Folan. Poland (4-5-1): Fabianski; Wasilewski, Dudka, Bosacki, Wawrzyniak; Blaszcyzkowski (Robert Lewandowski H/t), Boguski (Peszko 70) Mariusz Lewandowski, Gargula, Krzynowek (Jodlowiec 81); Brozek (Guerreiro H/t).
Referee: Mr. K. Jakobsson (Iceland).

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