Ireland fail to capitalise upon a magnificent start against Bulgaria

Ireland fail to capitalise upon a magnificent start against Bulgaria

Republic of Ireland   1 - 1   Bulgaria Richard Dunne 1                  Kevin Kilbane og 74 The Republic of Ireland were leading 1-0 with 74 minutes of the game played when Bulgaria forced an equalising goal in a tense World Cup qualifying tie before 60,002 spectators at Croke Park.
28th Apr 2009
World Cup Qualification - Group 8
Republic of Ireland
1
Bulgaria
1
Dunne 1Kilbane og 74
Saturday, 28 March 2009
Croke Park, Dublin - Attendance: 60,002

Ireland fail to capitalise upon a magnificent start against Bulgaria

The Republic of Ireland were leading 1-0 with 74 minutes of the game played when Bulgaria forced an equalising goal in a tense World Cup qualifying tie before 60,002 spectators at Croke Park. The reaction of team captain Robbie Keane (on left) reflects Ireland's disappointment after they surrendered an equalising goal so late in the game.

Ireland were boosted by their magnificent start for Richard Dunne headed the opening goal with less than a minute elapsed but they failed to capitalise. They were extremely conservative in their play subsequently and paid the penalty.

Bulgaria were level after a sweeping move in the 74th minute. Substitute Kishishev swung a cross from the left wing to the far post where Stilian Petrov closed quickly on the ball. He drove it across goal from the end line and the ball struck Kevin Kilbane on the foot and was turned into the net.

It was a harsh blow to an Irish defence that had stood manfully up to many minutes of sustained Bulgaria pressure throughout the game.

The visitors had Stilian Petrov in a commanding role in central midfield, just in front of their two centre-backs. There he found the space and the possession to dictate the pace and the trend of the game.

Ireland seemed to concentrate on maintaining two lines of four defenders between the ball and goalkeeper Shay Given for most of the 90 minutes and scarcely ever attacked in numbers. They appeared to rely exclusively on Kevin Doyle and Robbie Keane to process their attacks.

The wingers, Aiden McGeady and Stephen Hunt, were pulled in from the touchlines to counter the numbers Bulgaria had in midfield and this undoubtedly helped to give goalkeeper Given more protection. But Ireland suffered from a lack of numbers in attack.

The opening goal came when Stephen Hunt forced a free on the left touchline within the opening minute. Hunt swung in the free, John O'Shea headed the ball on and Richard Dunne struck from the right for his sixth goal in his 48th international.

Bulgaria produced the more inventive football afterwards. Petrov had a powerful shot from distance saved by goalkeeper Given, Manolev had a great run on the right to set up Georgiev who spoiled a great chance with a weak shot and Rangelov lifted a shot over the bar when Bulgaria looked like equalising.

Ireland, who had John O'Shea (on left) and Richard Dunne in superb form, were close to a match-clinching second in the 60th minute when Doyle won a superb header to send Robbie Keane in from the left but his left foot shot was smothered by goalkeeper Ivankov.

Ireland had their best chance of taking all three points in the 67th minute when Hunt's cross was punched by the goalkeeper straight to McGeady but his shot from 22 yards was directly at the goalkeeper.

Finally, after Bulgaria had claimed their equalising goal, Ireland had a belated chance to regain the lead when Keith Andrews took a return pass on the left from Hunt and crossed for Doyle who was at full stretch when he got his head to it and then saw his header saved.

Afterwards Kevin Doyle commented: "We are a little down and disappointed because we were leading with only 15 minutes to play and we thought we could hold on to win it.

"But we have to be positive, it is a point gained and we are in second place, seven points clear of Bulgaria and we must get ready for Italy on Wednesday.

"Bulgaria had a lot of possession but they did not create many chances and we had chances to win the game even after they scored.

"After scoring so early we possible sat back a little and with Petrov sitting in front of their back four and picking up everything he made it difficult for us. But we had the chances to score a second goal and failed to take them."

Manager Giovanni Trapattoni said he was a little disappointed not to win the game. He conceded that Bulgaria enjoyed much more of the ball but he also made the point that they did not have that many clear chances.

"We had three very great chances to score a second goal and win" he said, "Doyle's header, Robbie Keane and McGeady all had chances."
Republic of Ireland: Givens; McShane, O'Shea, Dunne, Kilbane; McGeady (Keogh 90), Whelan, Andrews, Hunt; Keane, Doyle.
Bulgaria: Ivankov; Manolev, Tomashich, Stoyanov, Milanov (Kishishev 25); Tekiyski, Petrov, Popov (Dimitrov 46), Georgiev (Makriev 66), Angelov; Rangelov.
Referee: Mr. I. Bebek (Croatia)