Let’s do this thing. It’s Ireland versus Estonia in the first of their qualification play-off ties.
Full-time: Estonia 0 Ireland 4
Bosnia 0 Portugal 0
Turkey 0 Croatia 3
Czech Republic 2 Montenegro 0
19.02 – As Mario Rosenstock’s Keith Duffy might say: are ya nervous?
Ireland and Estonia will kick off in 45 minutes’ time at the interestingly-named A La Coq Arena in their Euro 2012 qualification play-off, first leg.
We’ll go kick-by-kick. Let’s have your predictions.
Disclosure: I backed Robbie to score first.
19.05 – So first some housekeeping. Jonathon Walters has been named as the man to partner skipper Robbie Keane up front.
Manager Giovanni Trapattoni, you’ll recall, refused to identify his second forward this week, instead opting to keep his options open.
But with a mere hour to kick-off, Trap confirmed the big Stoke target man would start. Happy with that, Ireland fans?
19.08 – For those of you logging on, expecting to read Miguel Delaney’s thoughts from the stadium in Tallinn, you’re stuck with me for the time being.
Our man on the ground has rung to say that the press box is in chaos as the internet isn’t working. There may be blood spilled yet.
19.10 – Dunphy is cast as the class swot on RTE. “You’ve seen every Estonian qualification game, Eamon?”
The former Newstalk man expects a close encounter but reckons the hosts’ ‘keeper is ‘dodgy’, to use a technical term. Here’s some reading on what we think you can expect.
19.14 – Elsewhere, two games are already underway. Olic has just put Croatia one-up in Turkey while Bosnia and Portugal are scoreless after 15 minutes or so.
The Czechs and Montenegro kick off at the same time as Ireland. Like the Skibbereen Eagle newspaper famously vowing to keep an eye on the Kaiser, we’ll watch developments across Europe closely too.
19.19 – Miguel emails from Tallinn thanks to an over-heating mobile phone, I imagine:
“There’s a lot of frustration in the press box at the moment because neither the wifi nor the phone connections are working. As one of the guys just said there, ‘people think this is a glamorous job but I have a total of 2,000 words to file by the full-time whistle and, as yet, no way to send it… My stomach is in a knot.’”
19.21 – Those Irish tourists with tickets don’t seem to care too much about the malfunctioning modem at the heart of the A La Coq Arena, meanwhile:
Pic: INPHO/Donall Farmer
19.22 – So how are we feeling out there? Judging by today’s poll, about half of you think we’ll earn a ‘hard-fought win’.
19.29 – Whoever had 7.28pm in the sweepstakes, Dunphy just said ‘top, top player’. You can collect your prize in front of the stage.
He was talking about Robbie by the way – he’s scored 19 goals in Trap’s time on the bench, Billo says.
An even nice stat? Estonia have conceded in each game of this campaign.
19.38 – Chippy’s ‘confident’ as we have the better players, Giles says he’s not nervous, Dunphy says he views the games with ‘trepidation’.
I’m a little of all that, as we count down to kick-off.
19.40 – Chris Skudder of Sky News reports that the home fans are, to coin a phrase, on a wind-up.
“How strange – numerous Union flags being displayed in Tallinn by Estonia fans – sure to wind up #Ireland,” he tweets, before adding: “Yep I’m not mistaken Union flags with Three Lions on but pale blue on Union flag – trying to work it out”
19.41 – Guus Hiddink will not be pleased. Turkey are now two-down against Croatia, thanks to a goal from Mandzukic, and the home fans are freaking out with missiles thrown on the pitch etc.
19.42 – Do you want the good news or the bad news? Well the teams are on the pitch and the anthems are currently being played.
Ronnie Whelan is the co-commentator with Darragh Maloney.
19.45 – Who knew? Simon Cox sang every word of the anthem there.
The Estonian offering is a rousing, impressive piece of male voice singing. The Irish fans seem to interrupt unintentionally during a sotto voce bit at the end.
We’re almost good to go anyway.
19.47 – Okay, we knew that Aiden McGeady, Whelan, St Ledger and Kelly were on yellow cards and at risk of missing the second leg.
But Darragh Maloney says that it’s now emerged that Richard Dunne is one booking away from the same fate.
19.49 – And we’re underway…
19.50 – Just to confirm then, these are your teams:
Ireland: Given, Kelly, St. Ledger, Dunne, Ward, Duff, Whelan, Andrews, McGeady, Keane, Walters.
Subs: Westwood, Hunt, Keogh, Cox, Fahey, McShane, O’Dea.
Estonia: Pareiko, Jaager, Stepanov, Piiroja, Klavan, Dmitrijev, Vassiljev, Vunk, Kruglov, Kink, Ahjupera.
Subs: Londak, Rahn, Voskoboinikov, Lindpere, Purje, Saag, Teniste.
You’ll note there’s no room for Seamus Coleman in the matchday squad.
19.55 – We’re coming up on five minutes and there’s not much in the way of a pattern quite yet.
Keith Andrews has kicked a few long balls when he’s turned in space in the middle of the park and Jon Walters – his target up front, no doubt – has had the first shot on target. It was a bit of a tiddler though.
19.58 – Aiden McGeady’s name popped up several times this week with the Estonians identifying the winger as a real dangerman.
The former Celtic star got on the ball for the first time there and was immediately closed down by two defenders. He looked for an instant like he’d gotten round the back but the ball ultimately escaped over the byline off his heel.
20.00 – Ooof! Estonia looked like the might have nicked one there but Vassiljev’s first-time shot was deflected just over Shay Given’s crossbar.
The Donegal man climbs highest to claim the subsequent corner.
20.02 – GOAL! Keith Andrews 13 minutes
20.04 – So, Ireland go one up. The ball came in form McGeady on the left and Andrews rose to meet it and put the ball into the corner.
20.09 – This might break the internet – like typing ‘Google’ into Google – but this is the scene in a pub down the road.
I don’t know why TheJournal team aren’t watching a telly, Ronnie Whelan isn’t that bad, but I’ll have to watch my spelling.
Meanwhile back in Tallinn, Jon Walters is causing more commotion in the box and Trap is losing the head on the sideline.
It’s much too open for the King of Catenaccio. 20 minutes gone.
20.12 – Vassiljev can hit them. We know that. But the No 14 has been given yet another chance to take a pot shot at Given’s goal.
That one had Darragh Maloney, Shay and me very,very worried… but it flashed wide.
20.17 – Here’s one for the scrapbook, Mrs Andrews:
Pic: INPHO/Donall Farmer
20.20 – Some pressure from the home side. Robbie Keane had the opportunity to clear on the edge of the box but lost it. After he won it back, and fed strike partner Walters, the ball was again lost and Kink fizzed in a shot. But Given again gathered despite a slight deflection on the way.
20.21 – Croatia have gone 3-0 up in Turkey through Corluka. Good night, nurse.
20.22 – My new favourite human Jon Walters found himself on his own up front and has to go alone. His whipped effort from the right side of the box goes over by a yard or two.
20.23 – RED CARD Stepanov is off for a second yellow, 34 minutes
20.25 – Stepanov walks off dejected after he clatters into Robbie Keane when Dmitrijev plays an awful back into the path of the Ireland skipper. The Hungarian ref has no hesitation in booking him again.
20.29 – Michael Owen. Please keep quiet.
In the meantime, Fahey, Hunt and, yes, one Paul McShane are warming up on the sideline. We’re five minutes from the half-time oranges.
20.33 – Ahjupera is booked for jumping up and kicking Stephen Ward in the shoulder/face. Ronnie reckons it was never a yellow because the Estonia has his eyes on the ball whereas in some cultures they’d give you a yellow belt for a move like that.
20.35 – Robbie Keane is standing on the edge of the box with his arms wide like Rio’s Christ the Redeemer. The skipper is disappointed Ward didn’t pull the ball back when he found himself round the back.
20.37 – HALF-TIME The Hungarian ref blows it up. Ireland are in a commanding position – one away goal to the good and a player up.
What’s your verdict on the first 45?
20.40 – Some initial points from the RTE lads’ half-time analysis:
- Giles isn’t happy. Ireland have handed initiative back to Estonia. The hosts are better than us in open play, he says.
- Dunphy: we need a good player to get on the ball and get the goal that will kill the tie but I doubt that will happen.
- Brady: we have a great opportunity now to end this tie here but I’m not confident.
Do you agree?
20.46 – The Czechs have gone one-up against Montenegro, through Pilar. Presumably not Pilar Caffrey.
20.51 – Here’s why Stepanov got the road:
Pics: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer
20.52 – We’re up and running for the second half, no changes yet – but Walters has picked up a knock we’re told.
20.54 – Early chances for Ireland – Ward picks up a pass from McGeady, he drags it back and Robbie bashes a shot off a defender.
Moments later, Duff skips into the box and fires a low shot which is saved.
20.57 – Keith Andrews is off the pitch with a blood injury at the moment. Alan Kelly has the magic marker at the read in case a new, bespoke jersey is requiredy, no doubt.
21.00 – It’s 11 v 10 again as Andrews trots back on. Dunphy called for the goalscorer to be replaced by Keith Fahey at half-time incidentally.
As I type, the Estonians claim a penalty. What they get is a free on the edge of the box after Vunk went down. The ball is delivered dangerously and goes wide off an Irish player. That was close.
Moments later their skipper drags one just wide.
21.08 – There’s one hour now gone and Estonia have enjoyed a sustained period of pressure.
Vunk has left the fray and the New York Red Bulls man Lindpere is on in his stead. He enjoys a rousing reception as he ends a self-imposed international exile.
In the meantime, Damien Duff looks in serious discomfort. The stretcher is on the way for the Fulham man after he clashed with Glenn Whelan.
21.10 – Isn’t it Stephen Hunt o’clock yet?
21.11 – GOAL! Jonathon Walters, 67 minutes
21.14 – Ireland have a foot in Euro2012. Jonathon Walters has put his side in the driving seat with a crucial second goal.
Aiden McGeady’s stinging shot was parried by the ‘keeper, Robbie Keane reacted fastest.
The LA Galaxy striker lofted a ball - intentionally I presume – to the back post, like O’Gara for Shane Horgan at Croke Park. Walters met it to score.
21.18 – GOAL! Robbie Keane 71 minutes
21.20 – The cat is in the sack to paraphrase a certain septuagenarian Italian! Once again, the skipper reacts quickest to turn the ball in.
Andrews’ free-kick was drilled down the keeper’s throat. Pareiko merely parried it – with his legs – back into the danger zone where Ireland’s record scorer was waiting to add to his tally.
If John Delaney’s neck-tie wasn’t off before, it’s surely around his head by now.
21.23 – RED CARD This game gets worse for Estonia. Their captain, Piiroja, is off for a second yellow after he handles deliberately when tussling with Robbie Keane.
Keith Fahey is on for Whelan.
21.25 – Dave Kelly reports that Duffer is off as a precaution and will be fine for Tuesday night.
21.28 – Walters off. Cox on. 82 minutes on the clock.
21.33 – PENALTY AND GOAL! This stuff never happens to us. Stephen Hunt was taken down and Robbie Keane adds another. Janey.
21.34 – It wasn’t right in the corner, as you’d like it, but Robbie’s Aldridge-type kick beat the keeper, who was booked and won’t feature in Dublin.
21.35 – Keith Andrews wins man-of-the-match. Agree?
21.39 – FULL-TIME Well, who expected that?
Ireland, it’s safe to say, will be in Poland and Ukraine next summer. Goals from Keith Andrews, Jon Walters and a Robbie Keane brace mean Tuesday night will not be the nervy affair we might have expected.
Let us know what you though of all that….
21.50 – Irish football fans around the globe are celebrating. Brian Canty sends this from the Amazon, where he’s been following our coverage.
Bring us back something nice:
21.53 – So that’s your lot. Miguel Delaney will send reaction from the players and management later – even if it arrives via pigeon.
Thanks for your company on what’s been a memorable night for Irish football. Keep the comments coming. Ole.