Ireland complete World Cup first phase unbeaten

Ireland complete World Cup first phase unbeaten

14/10/'09: Republic of Ireland 0 - 0 Montenegro
14th Oct 2009
World Cup Qualifer
Republic of Ireland0-0Montenegro
Wednesday, 14 October 2009Croke Park, Dublin

Ireland complete World Cup first phase unbeaten

A night of celebration for Shay Given and Kevin Kilbane at Croke Park as they represented the Republic of Ireland for the 100th time marked a successful end to the first phase of the qualifying process for the World Cup of 2010.

Ireland failed to defeat a spirited and capable Montenegro but ensured they go into the two-legged play-offs with an unbeaten record while offering several fringe players some invaluable first team action.

Paul McShane, Martin Rowlands, Liam Miller and Noel Hunt added to their first team experience with Ireland in a game that offered moderate entertainment. Ireland created relatively few scoring chances and were, indeed, rather fortunate not to have conceded what might have been a match-winning penalty kick.

The incident occurred in the 66th minute when Ireland's defence was wound into a dizzy scramble to repel an incisive run by right-winger Vukcevic.

Right-back Zverotic sent Vukcevic sniping at the defence from the right hand side of the penalty area. A spurt and adroit piece of footwork took him past Dunne and St. Ledger before he snapped a shot at goal from 12 yards. The ball hit McShane on the hand but the referee ignored claims for a penalty as the ball was knocked clear.

Ireland's manager Giovanni Trapattoni said: "I did not see it clearly but the referee was on the spot. The ball travelled only a couple of metres before it hit McShane and in that situation you could not say it (a handball) was deliberate so you could not say it was a penalty."

Goalkeeper Shay Given commented: "It (penalty) might have been given but at the same time Paul was only trying to get his body in the way. He was just about a yard or two away so what could he have done (to avoid it). On another night it might have been given but that's football, it's all about opinions."

One of the best chances of the game was spurned by Montenegro who came much more into the game in the second half when their more balanced midfield ensured a good supply of the ball for their attacking players.

The incident occurred in the 29th minute when full-back Jovanovic spun a superb cross into the penalty area from the left. Team captain Boskovic was unhindered as he rose to meet the ball on the penalty spot but he angled his header wide.

Damien Duff was played into a threatening position after 27 minutes when Miller angled an incisive pass through the Montenegro defence. Duff knocked the ball forward but his shot was deflected into the side-netting.

It fell to Richard Dunne to go closest for Ireland. He rose majestically to reach a left-wing free from Stephen Hunt in the 40th minute but saw his headed effort flatten against the crossbar and rebound to safety.

Ireland were not as impressive in the second half and it is fair to say that manager Trapattoni was not offered enough evidence to suggest any major change in his regular team selection.

Martin Rowlands prospects of impressing the manager were, unfortunately, cut short by injury after 39 minutes and John O'Shea showed his versatility by fitting into the central midfield spot comfortably.

It was Shay Given who summed up the most relevant aspects of the contest - "It was a memorable night for myself and Kevin (Kilbane) making it 100 caps for Ireland. I'm delighted to have done that.

"Ideally we would have liked to have played better and won the game but after coming through the qualifiers unbeaten we must take some positives from that. As well there were no yellow cards and it was imperative that we did not get a second card with massive two games ahead next month."

Ireland will know their play-off opponents and the order of matches when FIFA make the draws on Monday next.

Republic of Ireland: Shay Given; Paul McShane, Richarde Dunne, Sean St. Ledger, Kevin Kilbane; Damien Duff, Martin Rowlands (John O'Shea 39), Liam Miller, Stephen Hunt (Andy Keogh 88); Robbie Keane, Noel Hunt (Leon Best 67).

Montenegro: Poleksic; Zverotic, Basa, Batak (Djudovic 31), Jovanovic; Vukcevic, Boskovic (Kascelan 81), Pekovic, Novakovic, Drincic; Delibasic (Damjanovic 67).

Referee: Mr. Vladimir Hrinak (Slovakia).