Italy 0 - 0 Republic of Ireland
Ireland hold Italy in entertaining game
Republic of Ireland 0 Italy 0
In an end-to-end contest played before 22,879 fans, Ireland mustered the pick of the chances with Stephen Quinn’s late rocket which struck the crossbar the closest they came to securing victory.
Ireland manager Martin O’Neill made four changes to the side beaten 2-1 by Turkey last Sunday, with Alex Pearce, David Meyler, Anthony Pilkington and Jeff Hendrick earning starts.
Reading defender Pearce was kept particularly active for the opening 20 minutes as the Azzurri zipped the ball around with pace to create gaps in the Irish defence.
Ciri Immobile almost profited as early as the fourth minute when Marco Verratti teed up the striker in the box but he allowed the ball slip from his control and into the hands of David Forde.
The Irish goalkeeper was forced into his first save of the night a minute later as Claudio Marchisio surged from deep before smashing a high shot which Forde turned the post.
His opposite number, Salvatore Sirigu, was also called into action on 21 minutes after the Irish had weathered the early pressure.
From a free-kick won by Hendrick 20 yards out, Pilkington speared the drive over the wall and the Italian ‘keeper could only spill the dipping effort away to safety.
Chances were traded at each end as the contest opened up. The onrushing Giuseppe Rossi flashed his shot past the far post while David Meyler stung the palms of Sirigu.
Ireland then enjoyed their best spell around the half hour mark with the Italians on the back foot.
Firstly, Hendrick drilled narrowly wide of the near post and Stephen Ward’s teasing delivery across the six-yard box failed to get any connection from a team-mate.
Most clear-cut of all, though, was the opening conjured by Aiden McGeady’s dash to the end-line. His lofted cross to the far post was met by Shane Long whose header was punched away by Sirigu.
Still, Cesare Prandelli’s side still had time before the break to give O’Neill’s Irish another scare when Ciro Immobile ghosted into the box behind Pearce only to miscontrol the ball with the goal at his mercy.
The tempo didn’t relent following the resumption. Within the opening five minutes, Long’s shot was blocked after Wes Hoolahan released him into space and Pilkington cut inside and missed the target by a yard.
England’s opponents in the World Cup did have the ball in the net on 56 minutes, yet Immobile was adjudged to be offside when he tapped into an empty net.
O’Neill utilised his bench as the half progressed and two of the substitutes combined 10 minutes from the finish to fashion Ireland’s nearest chance of nicking the win. McClean’s left wing cross fell to Stephen Quinn, whose first-time shot rattled the underside of the crossbar. McGeady’s connected with the rebound but was denied by Sirigu.
Ireland: Forde; Coleman, O’Shea, Pearce, Ward; Meyler (Green 85), Hendrick; Pilkington (McClean 58), Hoolahan (Quinn 67), McGeady; Long (Cox 73).
Italy: Sirigu; Paletta, Motta (De Rossi 61), Darmian (Abate 88); De Sciglio, Verratti, Montolivo (Aquilani 16 [Parolo 38]), Bonucci, Marchisio; Rossi (Cerci 70); Immobile (Cassano 57).
Referee: Michael Oliver (England)
Ireland to play Italy in Craven Cottage
The match against the four time World Cup winners comes straight after Ireland’s May 25 home friendly against Turkey, and forms part of Martin O’Neill’s preparations for the Euro 2016 qualifiers, starting in September.
The game will also play an important role in Cesare Prandelli’s preparations for Brazil, where his side has been drawn in Group D alongside England, Uruguay and Costa Rica.
It will be Ireland’s 14th encounter with the Azzurri, having won two and drawn two of the previous 13 meetings. Ireland’s first ever international match was against an Italy B side in 1926 and they have been familiar opponents recent times, meeting twice in 2010 World Cup qualification, again at a 2011 friendly in Belgium and most recently at Euro 2012.
The game will kick off at 19.45 on Saturday, May 31. Tickets, starting at £10 for U16s and £25 for adults, are available through Fulham’s ticket office by calling +44 (0)843 208 1234, or by accessing their online portal:www.fulhamfc.com/tickets from Monday, March 24 at 10am.Fans are encouraged to buy early as prices go up by £5 across all age categories/blocks at 5pm on Tuesday 27th May 2014.
The Football Association of Ireland are currently in discussions for further friendly fixtures this summer. Relevant announcements will be made in due course.