26.05.2007 at 21:00 Gillette Stadium
1 - 1
Republic of Ireland
Arce (Pinedo 69 mins).
Peter Murphy wins his first senior cap for Ireland in tonight’s friendly with Bolivia in Boston’s Gillette Stadium
Shane Long netted his first senior international goal as Ireland were held to a 1-1 draw against Bolivia on Saturday evening, the second of the week during their end of season friendly series in America.
The Reading striker pounced to head Ireland in front 12 minutes into the contest from Alan O’Brien’s inviting cross at the Gillette Stadium but that lead lasted barely ninety seconds as the Bolivians levelled through a Miguel Hoyes shot from ten yards.
Ireland manager Stephen Staunton can consider himself satisfied with the two friendly matches this week in the United States as he bids to assess the budding talent at his disposal with the remaining EURO 2008 qualifiers in mind.
All 21 players in his squad were afforded an opportunity to impress over the two games and Staunton will have plenty of selection options to mull over in the upcoming months ahead of the double-header against Slovakia and the Czech Republic in September.
Ireland began where they left off from Wednesday’s encouraging 1-1 draw against Ecuador when they went on the attack against Bolivia.
Sunderland striker Anthony Stokes was making his first start in an Irish jersey and the 18-year old almost pocketed a goal inside ten minutes.
He burst through on goal after Shane Long released him with an incisive pass and although his attempted chip from 20 yards sailed over the head of Bolivian goalkeeper Hugo Saurez, it ended up marginally clearing the crossbar.
Shane Long then had a clear sight of goal a minute later after brushing off a challenge from his marker but Saurez denied the Reading striker with his legs.
Ireland forged ahead on 12 minutes with the best move of the match. Alan O’Brien found Long inside the penalty area with a curling cross from the left side and he applied enough power on his header to score despite Saurez getting a hand to the effort.
Bolivia’s intricate passing movements troubled the Irish defence and they cut open the Republic’s back-line shortly afterwards to net an equaliser.
Ireland were issued a warning of the Bolivian threat seconds before conceding when Arce forced Ireland custodian Nicky Colgan to tip his shot onto the post.
There was precious little Colgan could do from the next attack as Miguel Hoyes found space for himself inside the box to fire a shot across high into the top left corner from ten yards.
Long almost regained the lead for Ireland four minutes before half-time from another O’Brien delivery from the left flank. The Newcastle winger supplied an telling cross that Limberg Mendez could only deflect past his ‘keeper towards his own goal with Long pressurising the defender.
Ireland's goal-scorer homed in, ready to convert the loose ball, but Saurez back-pedalled and palmed the ball off his goal-line out of play for a corner.
Staunton introduced goalkeeper Wayne Henderson for the second half in place of Colgan and the Preston net-minder was quickly called into action as Bolivia dominated the early exchanges after the interval.
Diego Cabrera appeared destined to breach Henderson’s goal ten minutes into the second period after he charged into the penalty area but the substitute hesitated sufficiently to allow the Irish ‘keeper to clear the danger with a save.
Anthony Stokes looked lively for Ireland in a withdrawn role behind the strikers in the second half and he demonstrated the depth of his talents after 57 minutes with a thunderous shot from 30 yards which Saurez had to fling himself full-length across goal to tip away for a corner.
Stokes’ Sunderland colleague Daryl Murphy had the best of Ireland’s opportunities in the final stages. Firstly, he eluded his marker at the back post from a Stephen Hunt free-kick with 18 minutes left but scuffed his close-range shot past the post and then missed a glorious opening nine minutes from time just inside the box which failed to ruffle the 'keeper.
Ireland have another friendly match lined up against Denmark on August 22nd before their UEFA Championship qualifying series resumes and that game will offer Stephen Staunton a further insight into the emerging talent on the fringes of the first-choice squad.
Staunton admitted during this trip to America that the displays of his young guns had exceeded his own expectations and that bodes well as the qualifiers near closure at the end of the year.
Tonight’s game even provided a platform to test out players in various positions. Stephen Kelly began the game at full-back but switched to centre-half after the interval.
Tricky winger Stephen Hunt slotted into central-midfield as a direct replacement for Kevin Kilbane for the final 25 minutes and the versatile Anthony Stokes spent the second period deployed on the right wing.
“They have all shown that that are capable of making the step-up to international football and I know they can be relied upon if I need to use them in the competitive matches,” said Staunton.
Republic of Ireland: Colgan (Barnsley) - Henderson (Preston) - 46 mins; O’Cearuill (Arsenal), Bennett (Reading), P. Murphy (Carlisle Utd) - O‘Halloran (Aston Villa) - 46 mins, Kelly (Birmingham City); Gamble (Cork City) - D. Murphy (Sunderland) - 46 mins, Kilbane, captain (Wigan Athletic) - Stephen Hunt (Reading) - 66 mins, Potter (Wolverhampton Wanderers), O’Brien (Newcastle Utd) - Gleeson (Wolves) - 77 mins; Stokes (Sunderland), Long (Reading) - Kevin Doyle (Reading) - 54 mins.
Bolivia: Saurez, Hoyos, Pena, Alvarez, Garcia (Lima 61 mins), Mojica, Reyes, Vaca (Galindo 74 mins), Mendez, Morena (Cabrera 46 mins), Arce (Pinedo 69 mins).