Spain vs. Ireland: Score, Grades and Post-Match Reaction

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Spain vs. Ireland: Score, Grades and Post-Match Reaction

It may have taken longer than expected, but the side everyone expected to dominate Tuesday evening's friendly between Spain and Ireland at Yankee Stadium managed to do so.

The top-ranked Spaniards fought through a frustrating 68 minutes against Ireland, ripe with unrequited scoring chances and mediocre form from some top stars, but Roberto Soldado made that wait worthwhile in the ensuing minute. 

Taking a nice pass at the top of the box from Alvaro Arbeloa, Soldado sent an equally impressive shot past Ireland goaltender David Forde to give Spain, putting his country ahead for good in what amounted to a 2-0 win before a packed house in the Bronx. Juan Mata sealed the deal in the 88th minute for Spain. 

Of course, that's not to say the win was without controversy. In a call that will undoubtedly get the protest of many Irish supporters, a score by the underdog squad was wiped off the board in the 82nd minute due to an offsides call.

Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The play happened after a close-but-no-cigar strike by James McClean that was just narrowly blocked by Iker Casillas out of bounds. On the ensuing corner kick, Sean St. Ledger was able to corral a rebound, sending it past Casillas for what looked like the tying goal. It wasn't to be. The referee called off the score in the next few seconds, receiving jeers from a side that was well-represented at Yankee Stadium. 

Mike Prindiville of Pro Soccer Talk was one of many who disagreed with the controversial call: 

The Ireland national team's official Twitter feed also noted the cool reception in the stadium: 

Much of the reaction likely stems from Ireland's wonderful effort on Tuesday night to keep themselves in the match against the world's best team. And even though it never felt like they were in control, the Irish acquitted themselves nicely—especially in the first half. 

Almost the entirety of the first half was spent with Spain completely controlling the ball. They jostled the ball around the midfield, striking passes that seemed destined for an impending score that ultimately went nowhere. That's par for the course for the Spaniards strategically. They look to work the ball around and only take the best offensive chances.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The problem throughout was that Ireland proved mighty adept at limiting said chances. Andres Iniesta got a beautiful opportunity in the 16th minute, breaking down a defender and having a relatively open look at the goal. Unfortunately for the Spaniards, Iniesta's attempt proved unfruitful when he sent is corralling past the crossbar for a frustrating miss.

Those frustrations for Spain became intrinsic Irish hopes of walking away with an upset. When, in the 41st minute, Spain got their best shot—Pedro sending a strong scoring chance of the crossbar, followed by David Villa possibly trying to send the rebound into the upper deck—hope almost seemed lost. 

Though Spain was obviously the better side and was playing better on Tuesday night, the effort seemed to be falling by the wayside. Ireland had merely one chance to get on the scoreboard on a Conor Sammon try, but they had to feel good going into the halftime break. They weren't being embarrassed on a big stage despite having their backs against the wall a couple times. 

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

With another 45 minutes to play, Ireland could have been one crazy goal away from sending shockwaves through Yankee Stadium. It turned out that Ireland's chance would never come.  

Though the initial minutes of the second half played out much like the first, it became clear that Spain would eventually find the back of the net. The only question is when and if it would be an equalizer or a game-winner. The answer turned out to be the latter, but it was certainly not without a strong effort from a game Ireland club.

Following the victory, Spain will now have a short layoff before their travels to Brazil for the Confederations Cup. The top-ranked Spaniards have their first match of the event versus Uruguay on Sunday, continuing an especially busy June for the club. Ireland, meanwhile, has the next two months off before their international friendly versus Wales in August, a precursor to the beginning of World Cup qualifying in September. 

 

Player Grades

Spain

Ireland

Player

Grade

Player

Grade

Victor Valdés  

B -

David Forde  

A -

Gerard Pique 

B -

Seamus Coleman 

B -

Sergio Ramos 

B -

Sean St . Ledger 

B +

Alvaro Arbeloa 

B +

Stephen Kelly  

B -

Jordi Alba 

B -

Darren O 'Dea 

B

Andrés Iniesta 

A -

Paul McShane 

B +

Xavi  

A -

James McCarthy 

C

Sergio Busquets 

B

Jeff Hendrick 

B

David Silva 

B +

Conor Sammon 

B +

David Villa 

C +

Robbie Keane  

B -

Pedro 

B

Andrew Keogh  

B -

Substitutes 

 

Substitutes 

 

Iker Casillas 

A

Darren Randolph  

C

Cesc Fabregas 

A -

Damien Delaney 

C

Juan Mata  

A

Stephen Quinn  

B -

Jesús Navas  

C

Simon Cox 

B -

Roberto Soldado 

A

James McClean 

B +

Santi Cazorla

B -

   

 

Players of the Match

Roberto Soldado, Spain

Were it not for Soldado's sweet shooting in the 69th minute, Spain could have been in dire straits in this friendly. Though the result ultimately matters not, performing well in front of the American crowd had to mean a lot to this team. Spain, having long been recognized as international football's best outfit, was looking to assert their dominance before a crowd that was mostly casual in nature.

Soldado's goal allowed them to do so. Scoring against international competition is almost always worthy of an "A" in the grade book, but doing so with your country's pride on the line is equally impressive. Couple that with Soldado coming in as a sub—no easy task for someone of his caliber—and you get a performance wholly worthy of applause.

 

David Forde, Ireland

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

There aren't too many times the goalie of record deserves a special mention, but Forde's play was exemplary throughout the match. His positioning was great during the first half in keeping Spain at bay and he did a strong job at keeping his defense in line when necessary as well.

There weren't many circumstances in which anyone thought Forde would be able to keep Spain off the board for 90 minutes. Their ball movement was too strong, their players too good, for that to happen. But for those first 68 minutes, his strong play helped creep doubt into the things we thought we "knew."

Defensive effort certainly deserves some note here as well. But the goalie is always the last line of defense, and Forde's efforts were excellent against untenable circumstances.

 

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