Two goals in the last four minutes from Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle handed the Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni a late reprieve and an undeserved 2-1 win over Kazakhstan in Astana.
The Kazakh capital had its name changed from Aqmola back in 1998. The word Aqmola means “Death” in English. Had Ireland failed to score those two late goals, this would surely have been the death of Trapattoni’s reign as Ireland manager.
The Boys in Green started the game quite brightly with a 10 yard strike from James McCarthy forcing the home goalkeeper into a fingertip save to get the ball around the post after four minutes.
That was as good as it got for Ireland until the last five minutes however.
Ireland offered nothing constructive in attack against a team ranked 142nd in the world and the Kazakhs took the lead ten minutes before half time.
Ward gave away a free kick in the Irish left full back channel. The dead ball was whipped across and Whelan lost Konysbaev who headed into the far corner.
From there followed very little of note from the Boys in Green with long balls being hoofed from goalkeeper Westwood up to the attacking players and the manager offering little or nothing in terms of tactical change.
The fact is that Ireland didn’t have a shot on target in the second half until the 87th minute when McGeady played a ball across from the left wing which a Kazkh defender beat his goalkeeper to and with Robbie Keane about to poke the ball over the goal line, the Dubliner was upended for a stonewall penalty (and what should have been a red card).
Keane stepped up to slam the penalty home and Doyle popped up with injury time looming to crash home a terrific volley from 10 yards out.
With four minutes of injury time remaining, the Kazakhs were now downhearted and it was they who started to resort to the long ball into the penalty area with Westwood collecting those balls very easily.
The fact is that until the last minute, it is the Irish goalkeeper who would have been the Irish man of the match which said a lot about how the game had played out until the dying minutes. Doyle was lively having come on as a late substitute and such was the importance of his goal that it probably merited the most valuable player gong on its own.
James McClean took to Twitter shortly after the final whistle saying that as a fan the result was great but that the performance was “embarrassing and a disgrace” with a number of expletives thrown in. It was quite incredible that the Derry native didn’t see any game time in Astana and the young man has a very valid point, even if it might have been ill advised for him to express that point in the way that he did.
(At least some of) the dressing room is clearly not with the manager and now the focus needs to return to Giovanni Trapattoni. Having made a number of ridiculous selection decisions leading up to the game (and during the game – including playing three strikers on the wing at various stages with a quality winger on the bench – McClean that is), it is time for the Italian to step down and retire.
The FAI cannot afford to sack Trap and he has enough money so that he doesn’t need to have the remainder of his contract paid off. It’s time for you to leave Trap – if you care about Irish football, you’ll do just that before the next qualifier, which is against Germany at the AVIVA Stadium. I shudder to think what will happen in that game if the 73 year-old is still manager.