Robbie Keane on the double as Ireland overhaul Georgia

Robbie Keane on the double as Ireland overhaul Georgia

12/02/'09: Republic of Ireland  2 - 1  GeorgiaThe Republic of Ireland were grateful for a second half penalty decision that provided them with the break they needed to out-score a stubborn Georgia in a vital World Cup qualifying tie at Croke Park.
18th Jun 2009
World Cup Qualifer
Republic of Ireland
2-1Georgia
Robbie Keane 72 pen, 78
Iashvili 1
Thursday, 12 February 2009

Robbie Keane on the double as Ireland overhaul Georgia

The Republic of Ireland were grateful for a second half penalty decision that provided them with the break they needed to out-score a stubborn Georgia in a vital World Cup qualifying tie at Croke Park.

The decision of referee Jouni Hyytia (Finland) to penalise defender Lobjanidze for handball was bitterly disputed by the Georgia players who argued long with the referee and the referee’s assistant before the kick could be taken.

At least two minutes elapsed between the moment of decision and the execution of the kick and given the circumstances that came as little surprise.

Seventy-one minutes had elapsed when the referee blew his whistle and pointed to the spot at a time when Georgia must have believed they were within sight of an unlikely victory in a match of sustained tension.

Georgia drew the encouragement they needed to mount a stubborn defensive performance from a goal that arrived in a bizarre manner within 51 seconds of kick-off.

And while they drew the wrath of the fans by disrupting the flow of the game throughout the second half with time-wasting tactics, they showed they had the qualities needed to absorb pressure effectively until that 71st minute.

Suddenly the whistle represented a huge threat to their security and their agitation was evident in their entreaties and protests to the referee.

Through it all Robbie Keane maintained his composure and his focus. When he successfully beat goalkeeper Lomaia, Ireland’s rising challenge was whipped into white-knuckle intensity.

Georgia still hung on tenaciously but Ireland refused to be denied. The inspiring Aiden McGeady swept in a corner from the left wing in the 78th minute and Keane ducked in behind a defender to get his head to the ball and deflect it into the net for a win that was greeted with enormous relief.

The loss of points here would not have served Ireland’s cause, especially with a visit from a dangerous Bulgaria just a month away. The capture of all three points from a testing situation represented another injection of confidence and ambition in their quest for qualification.

The manner in which they conceded the first minute lead goal to Georgia must certainly have challenged their self-belief. The optimism and sense of confidence they would have felt at kick-off time, might well have been reduced to dust and ashes by the thunderclap surprise of so simple a goal.

Iashvili, operating wide on the left wing for Georgia, was the beneficiary of some questionable Irish defending as he slipped in behind Stephen Kelly to reach a ball that found the full-back and goalkeeper Shay Given caught in a moment’s hesitation. Iashvili slipped between them to touch the ball into the net.

Ireland dominated possession from there without ever succeeding in opening a path to goal for either of the strikers, Keane or Kevin Doyle. And while the sustained pressure meant that Ireland swarmed about the Georgia penalty area, they rarely were afforded a clear sight of goal.

Their cause would have been helped enormously had Keith Andrews been awarded the goal their pressure would have deserved when he found the net in the first half.

He moved onto a clever pass from Duff and from 23 yards struck a controlled shot that took a deflection off defender Khizanishvili that meant it slipped past goalkeeper Lomaia.

But Doyle was caught behind Khizanishvili as the ball was struck by Andrews and the linesman's flag for offside cut short Ireland's celebrations.

Ireland showed more penetration in the second half, particularly through the work of the excellent McGeady but they suffered another agonising moment of self-doubt when Iashvili had the ball in their net again in a breakaway attack in the 59th minute.

This time he reached a ball that rebounded off the butt of an upright after a deflection had taken it wide of Given. The incident unfolded almost in slow motion as the ball bobbled gently away from the goalkeeper but fortunately for Ireland, Iashvili was ruled offside as he knocked in the rebound.

Kevin Doyle had claims for a penalty turned down and when McGeady smashed a shot into the side-netting, everybody in the stadium rose in acclamation for it looked for a moment as if it had been blown into the net.

Ireland’s frustration was growing palpably when suddenly the persistent Keane pressurised Lobjanidze and the apparent handball was penalised. With 71 minutes elapsed, the critical decision arrived only just in time and Ireland march on with a place in South Africa still on offer for them.
Republic of Ireland: Shay Given; Stephen Kelly, Richard Dunne, John O'Shea, Kevin Kilbane; Aiden McGeady, Glenn Whelan, Keith Andrews, Damien Duff (Stephen Hunt 80); Kevin Doyle, Robbie Keane.
Georgia: Lomaia; Lobjanidze, Khizanishvili, Kaladze, Kvirkvelia; Razmadze, Menteshashvili (Khmaladze 70), Kobiashvili; Gotsiridze (Merebashvili 68), Siradze (Aleksidze 77), Iashvili (Karlsruhe).
Referee: Mr. J. Hyytia (Finland).