07.10.2006 at 19:45 Nicosia
5 - 2
Republic of Ireland
Referee: Lucilio Cardoso Cortez Batista (Portugal).
European Cup Qualifier-match
Mihalis Konstantinou 10
Alexandros Garpozis 16,
Mihalis Konstantinou 50, pen
Kostas Charalambides 60,
Kostas Charalambides 75,
Stephen Ireland (8)
Richard Dunne (44)
Cyprus 5 Rep of Ireland 2
Saturday 7th October 2006
The Republic of Ireland slumped to a dreadful defeat in Nicosia where Cyprus produced an attacking performance that ripped open the Irish defence repeatedly in the UEFA Championship qualifying tournament.
Cyprus scored five goals and might have scored as many more as they punched huge holes in an Irish defence that looked suspect throughout the game.
The regularity with which Ireland surrendered scoring chances ensured that Ireland had no chance of taking anything from a game they had hoped to win.
As a result Ireland are struggling now to make an impact in the qualifying tournament with no points from their opening two matches against Germany and Cyprus.
They play the Czech Republic at Lansdowne Road on Wednesday next in their third match and it is chastening to think that the Czechs will go into the game with full points from their three matches in the tournament and a goals aggregate of 12 for and one against.
It all adds up to a huge challenge for Ireland’s manager Stephen Staunton and his assistant Kevin McDonald as they try to rally Ireland and restore spirit for Wednesday’s match. And their task was not helped by the dismissal of centre-back Richard Dunne in the 78th minute of the match when Cyprus were already 5-2 ahead.
It was all very disappointing for Ireland, more especially since they jumped in front after only eight minutes of football.
The goal was scored by 20 years old Stephen Ireland who was making his competitive debut in central midfield alongside Kevin Kilbane.
Damien Duff created the opportunity with a run on the left and a good cross to the far post. Aiden McGeady turned the ball neatly inside with his instep and Ireland volleyed it to the net from 18 yards.
Within two minutes, however, Cyprus were level and after another six minutes they were in front and the trend of the game was quickly obvious.
Cyprus were suspect in defence but they were on top in midfield where they had three players operating in central positions – Satsias, Michail and Makridis – and their centre-forwards Constantinou and Okkas were rampant.
Constantinou regularly out-jumped an unhappy Andy O’Brien and showed neat play as well when the ball was on the ground and Okkas drifted between midfield and centre-forward with great effect.
Cyprus players breaking from midfield regularly embarrassed Ireland’s centre-backs, O’Brien and Richard Dunne, who regularly found themselves out-numbered and should have received better protection from their midfielders.
Constantinou scored Cyprus’ opening goal and full-back Garpozis came forward to head in a cross from the right to put them in front in the 16th minute.
Ireland never figured in central midfield where Kilbane and Ireland failed to get on the ball and they looked to the hard-working Duff and Aiden McGeady to process their attacks on the flanks.
Ireland were at least competitive to half-time and they were encouraged by a second goal after 43 minutes to leave the teams level at half-time. Dunne scored it, charging forward to head powerfully home a corner from Duff on the left.
A goal within five minutes of the start of the second half for Cyprus nipped any potential come-back from Ireland and highlighted again the problems in the side.
Again Andy O’Brien was seen in a poor light as he attempted to tackle Aloneftis inside the penalty area and conceded a penalty. Constantinou beat goalkeeper Paddy Kenny from the penalty.
Dunne had switched on to Constantinou late in the first half in an effort to curb his influence but a tackle on the half-way line had earned him a yellow card.
When Dunne was penalised as he attacked a high ball through the middle and knocked over a Cypriot player, the referee showed him the red card. He will miss the match against the Czech Republic as a result.
By then the match was settled. Cyprus reaped a rich harvest of goals as the Irish defence regularly made errors.
Substitute Charalampidis knocked in the fourth after Cyprus had opened up the defence with slick passing in the 60th minute and he also scored the fifth in the 75th minute when Aloneftis was given time and space on the left to cross for Constantinou to get in a header which Kenny parried for Charalampidis to knock in the rebound.
The finger could be pointed at Steve Finnan for allowing so much space on that side of the pitch for that goal and the mystery for the Irish management team was how so many of Ireland’s proven players had unhappy matches.
The decision for Staunton and McDonald now is whether to allow these same players an opportunity of restoring their reputations and bring back some pride to the team or do they commit totally to a younger set of players.
It is not a dilemma that lends itself to an easy solution, particularly in view of the number of players missing because of injury.
Republic of Ireland: Kenny; Finnan, Andy O’Brien, Dunne, O’Shea; McGeady, Ireland, Kilbane, Duff; Morrison, Keane. Subs: Lee for Andy O’Brien 71; Alan O’Brien for McGeady 81; Douglas for Ireland 83.
Cyprus: Morphis; Theodotou, Lambrfou, Louka, Garpozis; Satsias, Michail, Makridis, Aloneftis; Okkas, Constantious. Subs: Charalampidis for Michail 46, Theodotou for Garpozis 82, Yiasoumi for Okkas 86
The worst night of my football career, says Keane
Said the Irish skipper: “We let ourselves down, we let our fans down and let everyone else down. That’s a killer more than anything else. It’s very hard to put it into words. It’s probably the worst night of my football career.
“It was disappointing, but we have to take responsibility, fight together and look forward to Wednesday’s game as much as we can.
“It’s going to be difficult but we’ve got to pull together as players and take responsibility — we know that. We’re going to get criticised in the next few days but we have to be bigger and stronger to accept that.
“It’s going to be difficult but the good thing about football is there’s always another game. It’s going to be tough, we know that the Czechs are a good side but we have to (raise our game). It’s as simple as that. There’s no point in hiding. We have to stand up now and be counted.”
Keane insisted that manager Steve Staunton’s touchline ban was not a factor in the crushing defeat.
“It’s no excuse that Steve was missing. With a performance like that you can’t blame anything, not even the referee who I thought had a poor game. We have to accept it ourselves. There’s no hiding away from the fact that, that it just wasn’t good enough.”
Damien Duff, one of the few Irish players to emerge with credit on the night, was particularly dismayed by the nature of the goals Ireland conceded.
“It was devastating really, the result says it all. It was nice to get the early goal, but on the night there was a lot of bad defending. Obviously defending starts from the front with us but the goals we gave away were a joke.
“I wouldn’t say that the penalty (early in the second half) killed us — there was still 40 minutes to go. But we didn’t react like we did in the first half when we went 2-1 down.
“It was a terrible night. But we’re going to have to lift ourselves. It’s an uphill struggle now to qualify. When you come away to places like these, you have to get points. It’s just not acceptable dropping points here, or even getting a draw.
“This time last year, there were 15,000 at the game and we had a disappointing display then, another one tonight. We’ve got to lift ourselves now and give the fans something to shout about.”
CYPRUS: Morfis, Satsias, Lambrou, Louka, Theodotou, Michael (Charalambidis 46), Garpozis (Charalambous 77), Makrides, Okkas (Yiasoumi 86), Konstantinou, Aloneftis.
Subs not used: Georgallides, Theofilou, Daskalakis, Elia. Booked: Morfis, Garpozis, Konstantinou, Satsias, Aloneftis.
REP OF IRELAND: Kenny, Finnan, O’Shea, Andrew O’Brien (Lee 71), Dunne, Kilbane, McGeady (Alan O’Brien 80), Ireland (Douglas 83), Morrison, Keane, Duff.
Subs not used: Henderson, St Ledger, Foley, Tabb.