Liam Miller Tribute Game Report: Celtic/Ireland XI -v- Manchester United XITue, Sep 25 2018
Dylan O'Connell reports from Páirc Úi Chaoimh
Legends of both Manchester United and Celtic gathered together in the memory of Liam Miller at a sold-out Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Tuesday afternoon.
It was the United legends, led by Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane, who prevailed 3-2 on penalties following a 2-2 draw at the end of normal time.
A first-half surge from United involving penalties from Denis Irwin and a strike from Louis Saha were cancelled out by a resurgent comeback through Robbie Keane and Colin Healy.
Celtic/Ireland started the brighter of the sides as Graham Kavanagh broke through the centre, twisting past Gary Neville, and curled an audacious effort just wide after less than five minutes.
United responded patiently, with the fluidity between Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes stretching Celtic wide, allowing United to push through the centre.
In the space that emerged, Giggs dodged Kevin Kilbane on the edge of the area and unleashed a venomous volley, but he saw his the shot fly well wide of the target.
United’s growing play was rewarded soon after as a charging Nicky Butt was brought down by Johan Mjallby with a two-footed challenge.
Referee Graham Kelly signaling for the spot. Once accustomed to set pieces at the Red Devils, Denis Irwin stepped up and hammered the ball low into the right hand side of the area to make it 1-0.
Celtic/Ireland responded well, and nearly struck level as a poor clearance from Wes Brown landed to Kilbane in the area.
With the keeper off his line it seemed a given for the former Everton full back to score, but Kevin Pilkington charged back onto his line to save his side.
Celtic/Ireland’s pressure came their demise, as a looming Louis Saha caught a long ball from Scholes with the striker clean in on goal.
In a throw back to United of old, the man in Red ducked past the Celtic/Ireland defense before he neatly slotted home to double United’s advantage.
Celtic/Ireland remained determined as Robbie Keane launched Kilbane through on goal, and the wing back to square it for a running Shaun Maloney, but a swarming Pilkington touched his shot wide.
It was Robbie Keane’s turn next to try break United’s resistance as he knitted past Neville, and again through Wes Brown, but from the tightest of angles his shot fell neatly into the hands of Pilkington.
Celtic/Ireland continued to press. A long ball forward from Ian Harte set up Damien Duff to flick it on for Robbie Keane in the centre, but his shot dipped wide, much to the relief of a stranded Pilkington.
With the first half waning, Celtic/Ireland’s growing resistance finally paid off and Keane finally got his reward as he forced his way into the area to curl an audacious ball through Brown and John O’Shea and into the bottom corner.
Damien Duff swapped with Kevin Doyle at the break while Stiliyan Petrov gave way for Colin Healy, who made his first appearance on a football pitch since Cork City’s 2016 FAI Cup success.
The chemistry, once the hope of Ireland at the 2012 Euros, showed Doyle immediate flicked on for Keane to volley straight into Nulty’s hands. Stephen Kelly tried to flick on for Keane, but Brown cleared.
Celtic/Ireland continued to press, Robbie Keane releasing Kelly inside the area, but an off balance effort was easily palmed away by newly-introduced Mark McNulty.
They continued to push for an qualifier as Kenny Cunningham crossed it in for Robbie Keane, but the physicality of Mikael Silvestre was just too much for the striker and the ball fizzled wide.
Kenny Cunningham was next with the winger cutting inside to shoot at goal, but McNulty was across quickly to bat it away from goal.
Celtic/Ireland’s search for an equaliser finally paid off late on as Cunningham crossed perfectly for Healy, who just had to tap it in past his former Cork City teammate to pull his side level.
Inspired from the goal it became Keane vs Keane to deny the Boys in Green a late winner, as Robbie's run inside was covered by Roy, who cleared the ball.
A frustrated Robbie Keane continued to run into the final seconds as the awareness of Wes Brown and the vocality of Roy Keane denied a winner.
As the final whistle went, Keane and his teammates did not look disheartened with the opportunity of penalties for redemption.
Mark McNulty prevailed first, as the Cork City keeper dived low and right to deny Robbie Keane, and Andy Reid blasted his over the bar.
Roy Keane and Nicky Butt both missed for United, but McNulty again palmed away Ian Harte’s shot, and Dion Dublin stepped up to give United the winner with a looped effort into the top corner.
Celtic/Republic of Ireland: David Forde; Stephen Carr, Richard Dunne (Kenny Cunningham 45) Ian Harte (Stephen Kelly 45), Kevin Kilbane (Andy Reid 45), Johan Mjallby (Tosh McKinlay, 26) (Damien Duff 71) Paul Lambert (Graham Kavanagh 45), Shaun Maloney (Stephen McManus 80) Stiliyan Petrov (Colin Healy, 45), Damien Duff (Kevin Doyle 45), Robbie Keane.
Subs not used: Keith Andrews, Stephen McPhail.
Manchester United: Kevin Pilkington (Mark McNulty 66); Wes Brown, Dens Irwin (David May, 45), Gary Neville (Michael Clegg 45), John O’Shea, Louis Saha (Dion Dublin 45), Mikael Silvestre, Ryan Giggs (Roy Keane 66), Paul Scholes (Louis Saha 69), Nicky Butt (Quinton Fortune 66), Alan Smith (Nicky Butt 80).
Subs not used: Ronny Johnsen.
Referee: Graham Kelly.