Ireland 0 Greece 1: Holebas bags decisive goal as Republic lose at home again
02:05 GMT, 15 November 2012
Jose Holebas ensured the Republic of Ireland ended 2012 without the victory they craved as Giovanni Trapattoni's youngsters were undone by Greece.
The Italian's experimental side, which featured Ciaran Clark, James McCarthy, James McClean and Robbie Brady from the start and Wes Hoolahan after the break, competed well for long periods, but were unable to carve out the openings to take something from the game.
In front of a sparse crowd at the Aviva Stadium, where they were battered 6-1 by Germany in a World Cup qualifier last month, Ireland showed plenty of endeavour and at times craft, but they could not find the killer touch in front of goal.
Heated: The players of both teams clashed at the Aviva Stadium in dublin
Rep of Ireland: Forde, Coleman, O'Shea, Clark, Ward, Brady (Hoolahan 46), McCarthy (Meyler 70), Whelan (Andrews 34), McClean, Cox (Keogh 61), Long (Doyle 46).
Subs Not Used: Randolph, O'Dea, Kelly, Clifford.
Booked: Long, Clark.
Greece: Karnezis, Torosidis (Maniatis 60), Papastathopoulos, Papadopoulos, Holebas (Fortounis 46), Stafylidis (Spyropoulos 82), Tziolis, Tachtsidis, Ninis (Vyntra 60), Mitroglou (Salpingidis 46), Samaras (Athanasiadis 46).
Subs Not Used: Peristeridis, Kone, Christodoulopoulos, Dimoutsos, Siovas.
Goals: Holebas 29.
Ref: Eitan Shmuelevitz (Israel).
As a result, Holebas' sweet
29th-minute strike was enough to win the game for the visitors and leave
Trapattoni's detractors with enough ammunition to maintain their
opposition to his continued presence at the helm heading into March's
crucial World Cup qualifiers against Sweden and Austria.
The 73-year-old, finally bowing to
mounting pressure, handed youth a chance as his side brought an end to
their 2012 campaign and tried to do so in style against the national
currently ranked 12th by FIFA.
Ireland slipped significantly in
FIFA's ranking table – to 36th place, 24 behind the Greeks – in the wake
of their humiliation at the hands of the Germans, and the Italian's
response was to include Aston Villa defender Clark, Wigan schemer
McCarthy and wingers Brady and McClean in his starting line-up.
He was also forced to make a late
change when goalkeeper Keiren Westwood withdrew with a groin injury and
Millwall's David Forde was handed an unexpected fourth senior cap.
Struggle: Ireland were unable to seal a win over Greece
Whack: Jose Holebas (right) put the winning goal in for the visitors
It all started relatively promisingly
for the home side with McCarthy finding space in the middle of the
field to feed Brady and McClean on the flanks, and the movement of
strikers Shane Long and Simon Cox troubling the Greek defence.
Ireland had strong claims for a
first-minute penalty waved away by Israeli referee Eitan Shmuelevitz and
defender Konstantinos Stafylidis could consider himself extremely
fortunate not to be penalised for his less-than-effective attempt to
deal with Stephen Ward's deep cross.
Cox went to ground inside the box
under Sokratis Papastathopoulos' challenge three minutes later, but the
appeals on that occasion were more muted and also ignored, and McClean
scuffed a long-range effort wide.
But the Republic looked certain to
take the lead with 10 minutes gone when full-back Seamus Coleman, whose
combination with Brady proved a repeated threat down the right during
the opening 45 minutes, collected the winger's return pass and crossed.
Cox had found a yard of space and
climbed to meet the ball unopposed, but he was unable to hit the target
with just keeper Orestis Karnezis to beat.
Another defeat: Giovanni Trapattoni was deprived of the home win he craved
Greece had offered little in
response, but gradually worked their way into the game and called Forde
into action for the first time when Sotiros Ninis took aim from 25 yards
and forced a diving 23rd-minute save.
However, the Republic failed to heed
the warning and fell behind six minutes later when skipper Georgios
Samaras, who had earlier had to leave the pitch for treatment to a head
wound, turned Konstantinos Mitroglou's pass into the path of Holebas,
who span John O'Shea and thumped the ball into the bottom corner.
Long and Clark were both booked for
clumsy challenges as the game unfolded in anything but friendly fashion,
but the home side had rather lost their way.
They might have levelled in injury
time when Brady tested Karnezis with a left-foot strike after being set
up by Long, but the goalkeeper was equal to the task.
Shall not pass: Kevin Doyle could not engineer a goal
There was warm applause from the
sparse crowd when, on their return, Ireland were joined by in-form
Norwich star Hoolahan, winning just his second cap, a fact which had not
gone unnoticed by Trapattoni's critics.
Brady departed along with Long to
accommodate his arrival and that of Kevin Doyle, who was asked to play a
lone striking role ahead of Hoolahan with Cox dropping in on the left
and McClean moving to the right.
Unlucky: James McClean (left) and Co could not bounce back from the 6-1 hammering by Germany last month
Ironically Glenn Whelan, the man who
had pleaded with his manager earlier in the week to field an extra
midfielder, was back in the dressing room having limped off injured
before the break.
However, it was McCarthy who almost
dragged the Republic back into the game two minutes into the second half
when Karnezis failed to hold his long-range shot, although
Papastathopoulos prevented Doyle from converting the rebound and Cox's
follow-up was blocked.
But while perspiration was not in
short supply, inspiration was and the Irish failed to make the most of
the possession they were allowed as the game passed the hour-mark with
Greece's narrow lead intact.
Ward hacked a 69th-minute shot
harmlessly across the face of goal after the Greeks had failed to clear a
McClean free-kick, and Greece coasted to the final whistle and victory
with few alarms.