John O’Shea’s first competitive goal for his country helped the Republic of Ireland to a 3-1 victory over Kazakhstan at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday night as interim manager Noel King ended his spell in charge of the national team with a win.
Roberto Martinez arrived at the Aviva Stadium hoping to see his stars put in a good performance but he wouldn’t have been happy with the Donegal man that graces the right side of his defence. A howler from Seamus Coleman - that led to a wonder strike from Dmitri Shomko – prematurely set the tone for a nervous night for the Irish.
Ireland, however, recovered quickly with a dangerous cross from the left which caught Kazakh centre back Alexander Kislitsyn unawares, forcing an error in the guise of a handball.
Andy Reid supplied the cross on his first international start in six years with a ball that was sailing onto Richard Dunne’s head only for a scrambling Kislitsyn to bat it away with his arm.
From there Ireland pressed Kazakhstan in a game which had been preceded by questions about whether Ireland would get the ball down and pass it. In the end it was decided by two effective set pieces before being capped by a piece of brilliance from winger Aiden McGeady.
The first goal came from the spot after the handball, Robbie Keane stepping up to notch his 61st international goal. Keane, who had talked about wanting the new manager to have a no nonsense approach, certainly approached the game in that way. But Ireland - supplemented with many players that were re-igniting their international careers’ – started nervously.
After the defeat against Germany last Friday night Ireland were keen to perform well, especially with a new manager on the way. This, of course, created an air of nervousness, not only around the team but around the stadium.
The sparse crowd that turned up for the fixture were treated to a war of tactical attrition with Ireland starting with a 4-2-3-1 formation which featured skipper Keane as a lone striker.
The debate over the lack of natural wingers reared its ugly again in the 13th minute when the right back spot was deprived of any cover as Coleman mistimed a challenge and Dmitriy Shomko hit an almighty shot from the edge of the box that whizzed past goalkeeper David Forde.
There was more bad news for Ireland, and the visiting Everton boss, when combative midfielder Darron Gibson was stretchered off on the half hour. The suspected knee ligament injury will come as a blow to the Derry man who has been in self imposed exile from the International scene since last summer.
Pre match, interim Ireland manager Noel King had talked about how much of a threat Kazakhstan posed to Ireland. The threat they posed tonight was their patience which saw Ireland camped in the opposition half for large parts of the game without achieving anything. A frustrated Irish team relied heavily on the returning Andy Reid to create chances but with Kevin Doyle and Anthony Stokes coming in from the flanks it left him without much room to work with.
The Nottingham Forest playmaker will have been relatively satisfied with his return to international football an he had a hand in two of Ireland’s goals, but ultimately he would have wanted to put his own stamp on the game.
As the second half arrived the Irish fans would have hoped for more goals, a more importantly, and a win to cheer about. But the Kazakhs weren’t the giving type. The introduction of Aidan McGeady with 15 minutes left did, however, provide the catalyst to unlock the visiting defence one more time.
The winger pounced on a pass from Stokes to nip in behind the Kazakh defence and lay on a pass to Keane who collided with the Kazakh goal-scorer, Shomko, who in turn rolled the ball into his own goal.
Ultimately, it was a result that should see Ireland into the second seeds for the 2016 European Championship qualifiers, provided Romania don’t pick up two wins in their upcoming World Cup play-offs.
Republic of Ireland: David Forde; Seamus Coleman, Richard Dunne, John O’Shea, Marc Wilson; Darron Gibson (Glenn Whelan 37), James McCarthy; Kevin Doyle, Andy Reid (Aiden McGeady 76), Anthony Stokes (Wes Hoolahan 86), Robbie Keane.
Subs not used: Robert Elliot, Ciaran Clark, Joey O’Brien, Damien Delaney, Stephen Kelly, Paul Green, James McClean, Shane Long, Stephen Henderson.
Kazakhstan: Andrey Sidelnikov; Konstantine Engel, Mark Gurman, Andrey Karpovich (Pavel Shabalin 84), Alexander Kislitsyn (Andrei Finonchenko 32); Viktor Dmitrenko, Alexey Chshyotkin (Igor Jurin 62), Maxat Baizhanov, Dmitriy Shomko, Sergei Khizhnichenko, Valeriy Korobkin.
Subs Not Used: Alexander Mokin, Alexey Muldarov, Nurbol Zhumaskaliyev, Yeldos Akhmetov, Anatoliy Bogdanov, Yuriy Logvineko.
Booked: Kislitsyn (18)
Referee: Vadims Direktorenko
Extratime Man of the Match: James McCarthy (Republic of Ireland)