WE WERE LIVE from the Aviva Stadium for Ireland’s first game of 2014. How would Martin O’Neill’s side fare against Serbia?
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Republic of Ireland 1-2 Serbia
19.15 – Good evening and welcome to the Aviva Stadium on Lansdowne Road for tonight’s international friendly between the Republic of Ireland and Serbia.
There are no points at stake but judging by the mood in the Malahide camp this week, preparations for the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign begin in earnest tonight.
Kick-off is at 7.45pm. We’ll have the team news shortly.
19.17 – First up here’s the Ireland team, captained this evening by Glenn Whelan. It’s a 4-5-1 with Marc Wilson and Richard Keogh at centre-half, with Wes Hoolahan playing in behind lone striker Shane Long.
Ireland: Forde, Coleman, Keogh, Wilson, Ward, McGeady, McCarthy, Whelan, Hoolahan, McClean, Long.
Subs: Randolph, Kelly, O’Shea, Pearce, Clark, Walters, Green, Quinn, Meyler, Pilkington, Murphy, Cox, Stokes, Murphy.
19.19 – Here’s how tonight’s visitors line out. Among the names you non-football hipsters may recognise are Chelsea duo Branislav Ivanovic and Nemanja Matic, and Manchester City’s Aleksandar Kolarov.
Serbia: Stojkovic, Rukavina, Bisevac, Ivanovic, Dordevic, Tadic, Kolarov, Matic, Fejsa, Basta, Markovic.
Subs: Brkic, Gudelj, Tomvic, Tosic, Petrovic, Ljajic, Sulejmani, Scepovic, Krsticic.
19.23 – Here’s the view from the Aviva Stadium press box. Just under 25 minutes till kick-off.
19.26 – Writing in the programme tonight, manager Martin O’Neill says Ireland need to take a positive approach — even when they come up against Germany again.
The important thing, for the future of the international team, is to get rid of the fear factor. Okay, so we drew Germany again in the Euro draw, but as an international player when Northern Ireland beat the Spanish at the World Cup finals, there will always be a part of me that wants to go out and take points off the biggest teams.
I don’t think you should fear teams.
19.29 – So, what can we expect tonight? O’Neill spoke at length yesterday about the onus that’s on Ireland to go out and attack against Serbia tonight. He wants the team to express themselves — but warned that they will have to go out and earn that right against a team 38 places higher than them in the FIFA rankings.
He also promised to use his full complement of substitutes so expect plenty of changes as MON tries to get a good look at as many players as possible.
19.32 – If you’re looking for some pre-match reading, how about this? It’s Paul Fennessy’s five talking points ahead of Ireland v Serbia >
19.39 – The teams are out, led by Whelan and Ivanovic, and they’ll be followed by President Michael D Higgins in a few short moments.
Let’s have those predictions. It’s a 0-0 for me unfortunately, Bill.
19.44 – That’s the national anthems done. You’d nearly miss Nadia Forde, so you would.
19.47 – After a moment’s silence for some recently deceased friends of Irish football, we’re just about ready to go.
19.48 – KICK OFF: Referee Viktor Kassai gets us underway with Serbia attacking the Lansdowne Road end.
19.51 – 2 mins — OFFSIDE! Ireland have the ball in Vladimir Stojkovic’s net inside the first two minutes but it’s ruled out for offside against Wes Hoolahan. James McClean’s cross is rifled in by Glenn Whelan on the volley at the back post but Hoolahan was chasing in and, whether or not he got a touch, the assistant deemed him to be interfering with play.
19.53 – 3 mins – Benfica’s Lazar Markovic — “a teenage sensation,” my colleague Ben Blake tells me — tries to thread a ball through the Irish defence and Marc Wilson, playing at centre-half tonight, has to look lively to cut it out.
19.55 – GOAL! Ireland 1-0 Serbia (Long, 8′) Branislav Ivanovic will be welcome in Dublin any time — it’s the Chelsea defender’s mistake that has handed Ireland the game’s opening goal on eight minutes. Shane Long puts pressure on the hooked clearance by Marc Wilson and Bisevac and Ivanovic get their lines crossed. The Serbian skipper assumes responsibility but duffs his attempted backpass, leaving Long to nip in and loft the ball past Stojkovic with his weaker left foot.
Great start for Ireland.
20.00 – 11 mins – Wolf whistles from the Dublin crowd as the other Chelsea player in the Serbian XI, Nemanja Matic, shanks an volley horribly wide. So wide that it goes out for a throw-in.
Source: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne
20.03 – 13 mins – Tadic’s corner is met by the head of the high-rising Bisevac but Forde is able to gather without too much difficulty at his near post.
20.04 – 15 mins – Ireland’s pressing high up is certainly paying dividends in this opening quarter of an hour. Stephen Ward tries to find Long in the channel but Stojkovic dithers over what should be a relatively straightforward clearance and, under pressure from the Hull striker, has to roll the ball into touch.
20.07 – 17 mins – Long comes back to help Seamus Coleman defend the right-full position but Markovic has support too in the form of Kolarov, and the latter’s cross is steered just off target by Dordevic’s head.
20.08 – 19 mins – A bit of a muddle in the Irish defence sees Richard Keogh scrambling for position. Dordevic lays the ball off to Markovic who doesn’t have much space in the Irish box but gets a low shot off. Saved by Forde.
20.10 – 20 mins – Serbia really starting to grow into the game now and enjoy plenty of possession, and it very nearly leads to the equaliser. James McCarthy has to use every inch of his 5’11″ to get up underneath the crossbar and turn Ivanovic’s free header away from goal.
Just before that, Rukavina appealed for handball against Stephen Ward but it would have been harsh.
20.12 – 23 mins – So close for Marc Wilson as he sneaks in around the back of the Serbian defence and gets a free header on McGeady’s corner. Just wide.
20.14 – 25 mins – Tadic runs at Coleman and throws a stepover or two in the hope of fooling the Everton man. Not happening. In fact, it comes off the Serb last and goes for an Irish goal kick.
20.16 – 27 mins – At the other end, Coleman catches the Serbian defence playing musical statues at a throw in. He belts down the wing untracked and does well to force a corner.
20.19 – 29 mins — GLORIOUS CHANCE for Ireland — but Shane Long spurns it. It’s a superb through ball from Hoolahan and as Long bends his run, the Serbian defence appeals for offside. On second glance he might have strayed just off but the flag stayed down, only for him to hit his shot straight at Stojkovic when one-on-one. He’ll know he should have done better there and it really should be 2-0.
20.20 – 31 mins – Seamus Coleman takes off down the right wing again and zips in a low cross that Bisevac slices behind for a corner with Long lurking. That could have gone anywhere.
Much better from Ireland and the crowd responds in kind, making a bit of noise for the first time since the goal went in.
20.22 – 33 mins – James McClean was getting a fair amount of joy out of Rukavina but himself and Aiden McGeady have switched wings for now. McClean cuts in off the right and fires a shot towards goal but, despite the expectant gasps from the crowd, it’s never troubling Stojkovic.
20.26 – 36 mins – A little bit of miscommunication between Whelan and Wilson gives Serbia a free in a dangerous position. There was only the slightest contact, if any, but Kolarov dusts himself off and lines up a free 22 or 23 yards out. The crowd’s whistles ringing in his ears, he shoots through the wall… but wide of Forde’s post.
20.28 – 38 mins – It’s McClean again who is making a nuisance of himself as some light rain starts to fall on Dublin 4. He skids a shot towards the far post and just wide.
20.29 – 39 mins – Tadic spots an opportunity with Forde a yard or two off his line and curls a shot from the right hand side of the box. The keeper is wide awake though and is able to get back in time, diving to tip it over the crossbar.
20.33 – 45 mins – First yellow card of the night as Wes Hoolahan mistimes his tackle on Matic.
20.33 – 45 mins – There’ll be two minutes of added time.
20.34 – Liam O’Sullivan comments: “Its far from Brazilian football but at least the lads are performing to a good level, rather than playing well within themselves. At one point we nearly conceded, and actually attacked after… Felt a little flushed!”
20.35 – HALF TIME: Republic of Ireland 1-0 Serbia
That’s our lot for now. Back in five.
20.50 – SECOND HALF: We’re back, baby. No changes for either side at the break.
20.54 – GOAL! Republic of Ireland 1-1 Serbia (McCarthy og, 48′) Serbia equalise with the first meaningful attack of the first half. McClean goes down clutching his face as he’s shrugged off by the advancing Kolarov and as he plays a one-two on the edge of the box, Ireland try to step up and play the offside trap. Kolarov beats it though and as he squares for Dordevic to roll the ball into the empty net, McCarthy gets a toe on it and it trickles over the line.
20.59 – 52 mins — ANOTHER GIFT FOR SHANE LONG… and again it goes a-begging. To be fair to Long, it’s his beautiful back heel that sets the move in train but this is all about Wes Hoolahan who waits for Long to bend his run and then plays an exquisite reverse through ball to leave him home free behind the Serbian back four. He has plenty of time but rushes his effort slightly and tries to chip Stojkovic. It doesn’t come off.
21.03 – 57 mins – McGeady, who has been quite quiet tonight, dispossess Matic but gives possession away with a loose touch. Hoolahan slides in to win it back, and then promptly gives it away himself.
21.04 – Substitution: Serbia make the first change of the night with Zoran Tosic coming on for Dusan Basta.
21.06 – GOAL! Republic of Ireland 1-2 Serbia (Dordevic, 60′) Serbia take the lead on the hour mark. Coleman is caught in possession as he tries to play the ball out from the back and with the defence all out of shape, Ireland are punished. Tosic — who is only on the picth a moment — supplies the penultimate touch and Dordevic finishes from close range.
21.07 – Double sub for Ireland: Meyler on for McCarthy and Pilkington replaces Hoolahan, who was very impressive tonight.
21.10 – Substitution: Another Irish change as Ciaran Clarke comes on to replace Stephen Ward.
21.11 – Great chance for substitute David Meyler to level but he can’t keep his header down from McGeady’s corner and it sails towards the Lansdowne Road end.
21.13 – 67 mins – Ireland venture forward in search of an equaliser but with the bulk of the Serbian defence pinned back inside their area, Coleman and McClean give the ball away in quick succession.
21.15 – 68 mins – McGeady has drifted back into a more central role since the introduction of Pilkington and he combines well with McClean to create some space out left. He gets to the byline but there’s four Serbian shirts against one Irish, Pilkington’s, and those numbers rarely stack up.
21.17 – 70 mins – Tosic has a chance to kill the game after another Serbian attack down the left sets up Dordevic for an overhead kick. His miscue falls at Tosic’s feet but the shot on goal is too feeble to trouble Forde.
21.18 – Double substitution: More changes for Ireland as Walters and Daryl Murphy come on to replace McGeady and Long.
21.20 – 74 mins – Ireland are struggling to keep possession now and every hacked clearance is coming straight back down their throats.
21.25 – 78 mins – Matic tries to slip the ball through to Sulejmani but he’s crowded out before he can get his shot away cleanly.
21.26 – Substitutions: Stephen Quinn comes on to replace Glenn Whelan for the final 11 minutes with Adem Ljajic on for Serbia, replacing Dusan Tadic.
21.28 – 82 mins – Ivanovic clatters through the back of Walters as they contest a high ball and he’s booked for his troubles.
21.28 – 82 mins – McClean fires in a tempting free but Stojkovic comes out with authority to punch clear.
21.31 – 84 mins – The cameras cut to a rather glum-looking Shane Long on the bench. He was lively tonight but he’ll know that he should have done better with his two chances.
21.32 – 85 mins – Serbia break and Tosic plays in Ljajic. Wilson is back in position in time to turn his cross behind for a corner.
21.33 – 86 mins – The crowd raises its voice in hope rather than expectation as Walters chases a long ball but Serbia shut him out. Just over three minutes left now.
21.36 – 90 mins – There’ll be three minutes of added time. Ireland are staring down the barrel of the first defeat of the O’Neill/Keane era.
21.38 – 90+2 mins — Kolarov has space to try a pot shot but Forde gets down to turn it behind for a corner.
21.38 – FULL TIME: Republic of Ireland 1-2 Serbia
21.44 – So that’s it. Dordevic’s goal on the hour mark proved to be the decisive one but you have to say Serbia were the stronger side in this second half and leave Dublin with a win they’ll feel the deserve.
There will be positives for Martin O’Neill to focus on — Wes Hoolahan showed his playmaking craft and James McClean was lively, if sometimes wasteful — but that will have to balanced out against Shane Long’s wasted opportunities and some defensive shakiness throughout.
A disappointing night for Ireland but focus will quickly turn to the summer friendlies.
Thanks for reading.