Robbie Keane heads winner against Cyprus

Robbie Keane heads winner against Cyprus

16/10/'08: Republic of Ireland  1 - 0  CyprusIreland maintained their position as second to Italy in Group Eight of the 2010 World Cup qualifying series by picking up three precious points at the expense of Cyprus before 55,833 spectators at Croke Park.
18th Jun 2009
World Cup Qualifer
Republic of Ireland1-0Cyprus
Robbie Keane (5)
Thursday, 16 October 2008
Croke Park, Dublin - Attendance: 55,833

Robbie Keane heads the winning goal as Ireland overcome stubborn Cyprus

Ireland maintained their position as second to Italy in Group Eight of the 2010 World Cup qualifying series by picking up three precious points at the expense of Cyprus before 55,833 spectators at Croke Park.

A single goal after just five minutes by Robbie Keane separated the teams after 90 minutes of hard graft as Ireland were forced to battle hard to overcome a spirited Cyprus. It was Keane’s 35th goal in his 85th international.

Ireland would have won more convincingly had they taken second half scoring chances but their failure to do so was both an encouragement to Cyprus and source of pressure on Ireland’s defence.

The knowledge that a single slip would cost dearly meant that some of Ireland’s defending in the second half was more emotional than calculated and it was with some relief that the final whistle was welcomed.

Cyprus proved again just how resourceful they are in this, the third meeting between the teams in two years. They were short a number of first-choice players but they proved themselves skilful, flexible and determined and Ireland needed a full-blooded performance to contain them.

That said Ireland were clearly the superior team in the opening half when energy levels were high and Cyprus played from an orthodox 4-4-2 formation.

Ireland matched them in the middle of the pitch and with Ireland’s strike players – Kevin Doyle, Robbie Keane, Aiden McGeady and Damien Duff – working with a will to close down Cyprus’ defenders, the visitors were unable to settle into a rhythm.

Instead they had to by-pass midfield and resort to using the long ball out of defence to their front-runners. Ireland thrived in defending against this approach.

The result was that Ireland had more possession, used the ball more constructively and maintained pressure on the Cyprus defence for long periods.

They had only one goal to show for their superiority but it was a beauty. Duff, who was charged with playing on the left, suddenly turned up on the right hand side of the pitch.

He twisted and turned away from tacklers and when he chipped the ball across to the far upright from the edge of the penalty area, Robbie Keane was there in splendid isolation to head into an unguarded net.

The match was only five minutes old but despite continuing to make the running, Ireland were unable to build on their lead.
They were vulnerable as a result when Cyprus improved in the second half. Cyprus changed their formation and operated with three defenders and five across midfield. The superior numbers in central midfield saw them wrest control from Ireland and they enjoyed a greater share of possession.

Suddenly their defenders had players free to accept the ball and they built up a momentum with intricate and accurate passing movements in the midfield area. The pressure on Ireland’s defence grew perceptibly.

Goalkeeper Shay Given made a reaction save of critical importance from Okkas in one frantic attack but Ireland defended with such resolution that Cyprus were unable to create a clear-cut scoring opportunity.

It is true that Richard Dunne, especially, and all of the defenders were pushed to the limit as Cyprus made substitutions that helped them raise the tempo of their game but Ireland held firm.

Dunne was an inspirational figure and right on the full-time whistle he showed the courage that so lifted Ireland when he raced out of defence and headed a clearance virtually off the toe of a Cypriot player as he was about to unleash a volley at goal.

In between bouts of hectic action in Ireland’s half of the pitch the Irish broke out several times to punch openings at the other end. But always their finishing attempts betrayed them.

Aiden McGeady was marginally high when he side-footed the ball past goalkeeper Giorgallidis, Damien Duff narrowly wide with a shot that flew across goal and Kevin Doyle was also just off target when it seemed he was about to make Ireland’s position safe.

Doyle produced a ‘Man of the Match’ performance at centre-forward and he showed that he is continuing to develop his game with a high-energy 90 minutes that drew a standing ovation from the fans as he was called ashore just before the full-time whistle.

Ireland had weathered the Cyprus storm in the closing quarter and while the narrow victory margin meant there was no room for error, the truth is Ireland had spurned opportunities of illustrating their superiority more convincingly.

That said it was a first win in three matches against Cyprus in two years and represented an important confirmation of progress made. As a result they are second in the League table in Group Eight with seven points from three matches.

Italy are top with ten points from four matches and Bulgaria are third, four points behind Ireland with three matches played.
Republic of Ireland: Given; McShane, O’Shea, Dunne, Kilbane; McGeady, Gibson, Whelan, Duff; Keane, Doyle (Folan 90).
Cyprus: Giorgallidis; Ilia, Andreas Constantinou, Lambrou (Papathanasiou 46), Charalambous; Christofi, Maragkos (Panagi 52), Makridis, Garpozis; Okkas, Michael Constantinou (Yiasoumi 79).
Referee: Mr. Alexandru Tudor (Romania)