Rep. Ireland - Georgia: Giovanni Trapattoni Has the Luck of the Irish

Mary O'SheaSenior Writer IFebruary 12, 2009

When the FAI declared Italian Giovanni Trapattoni as the new Republic of Ireland manager little did they know that he has more luck than the Irish themselves.

Last night poor old Georgia were once again on the receiving end of this good luck.

Trapattoni's first slice of luck came in September when Ireland were scheduled to play Georgia in the away fixture in Tiblisi. However, UEFA deemed the country unstable as Russian troops entered South Ossestia and Georgia lost home advantage.

The Georgian FA asked for the ties to be reversed. This way Ireland would host Georgia in September and Georgia would host the Irish in February when hostilities had died down.

As luck would have it for the Irish, Croke Park was unavaibale in September as the All-Ireland hurling and football finals were been played.

It was decided that Georgia would lose their home advantage and the game was played in Mainz, Germany. The Irish went on to win 2-1.

So to last night and a game the Irish were expected to win.

There was a late change as Stephen Kelly came in for the injured Paul McShane at right-back.

It was a terrible comeback to the Irish squad for the Stoke man as his mistake led to Georgia taking the lead with only 44 seconds on the clock.

A run of the mill long ball found its way to Siradze who flicked it on. Kelly showed a complete lack of trust in his left peg and instead of throwing a boot at it left the ball bounce and it made its way towards Iashvili who tucked home.

This was not the way the script had been written.

Trapattoni had sent out a relatively inexperienced central midfield of Stoke's Glenn Whelan and Blackburn's Keith Andrews who was making his senior international competitive debut.

Andrews did have the ball in the Georgian net on 25 minutes but the goal was ruled out for an offside on Reading's Kevin Doyle.

The Irish central duo never got a stranglehold on midfield with Whelan in-particularly guilty of given the ball away needlessly.

Most of the Irish threat came from the two wide men of Duff and McGeady, the Celtic man was most threatening. With the home crowd getting anxious, the Irish upped the ante before half-time with McGeady making a good run through the middle before seeing his shot saved by Lomaia in the Georgian goal.

Ireland left the field at half-time to a few boos and Trapattoni, Tardelli and Brady knew that something different was needed in the second half if the home side were to get the three points so desperately needed to keep in touch with the Italians.

At the start of the second half, Ireland once again had control of most of the ball but with little end product.

Aiden McGeady, Ireland's best player on the night, upped his game on the hour mark and twice went close to levelling matters. However, as the game wore on the crowd were getting increasingly frustrated as it seemed for all Ireland's endeavour, there would be no equaliser.

Then up stepped Finnish referee Jouni Hyytia for his moment in the spotlight in what was his final "big" game as official.

To confusion from both the Irish and Georgian sides, Hyytia awarded a penalty to the boys in green. A long ball found its way to Robbie Keane who seemed to control the ball with his hand only for the referee to let play continue.

The ball was then cleared but only as far as Kevin Doyle as it deflected off the Waterford man and into the path of Ucha Lobjanidze. The referee then gave a shrill blast of his whistle for what appeared to be an offside by Keane.

Instead to everyones surprise, Hyytia pointed to the penalty spot and deemed Lobjanidze to have handled the ball. Replays showed that Keane had handled the ball in the lead-up to this decision and that Keane was also offside as play continued. However, most surprising it also showed that the Georgian's hand had gone nowhere near the football which had hit him if anywhere on his collarbone.

Regardless of what the referee had thought he had seen, Keane did not need to be asked twice and immediately set the ball down on the penalty spot. The Spurs and Irish captain dispatched it with ease and the scores were level.

After that the Georgians seem to lose their way and gave away free-kick after free-kick. Lobjanidze, Menteshasvili and Kvirkvelia all found their way into the referee's notebook.

Six minutes after the bizarre penalty incident, Ireland were ahead.

McGeady swung in a corner and Keane beat off the attentions of Kvirkvelia to head home (via his cheek) and give the home side a one goal advantage.

Trapattoni sacrificed Damien Duff to bring on the more defensive Stephen Hunt in order to close the game out. The Irish did just that much to the relief of the home crowd at Croke Park.

The Republic of Ireland are now joint-top of the group with Italy on ten points however the Italians do have a better goal difference. Trapattoni's men now face a challenging game at home to Bulgaria in the next round of fixtures where a win for the boys in green would surely see the group becoming a straight shootout between Ireland and Italy for qualification for next year's World Cup in South Africa.

So far it seems as if the luck of Trapattoni is having its effect on the Irish. Not having to play in a hostile Georgia and been awarded a phantom penalty at a crucial time in a game both points towards this.

However, Irish fans certainly won't mind how much luck there is involved as long as we are on that plane to South Africa.

Republic of Ireland:

Shay Given (Manchester City) 7 - A quite enough night for Given. Could do little for the goal and anything asked of him he delivered. Good collection at the end to release pressure.

Stephen Kelly (Stoke) 5 - Was at fault for the Georgian goal and lacked match fitness. One to forget.

John O'Shea (Manchester United) 6 - Had a quite night although he played some nice long balls.  

Richard Dunne (Manchester City) 6 - As O'Shea didn't have much to do.

Kevin Kilbane (Hull) 6 - Played his 52nd consecutive game for Ireland. Spent most of his time attacking down the left flank. Didn't offer too much but didn't make any mistakes either.

Aiden McGeady (Hull) 8 - Ireland's man of the match. The Celtic man was a thorn in the side of the Georgians and was unlucky not to have his name on the scoresheet. Assist for Keane's second.

Glenn Whelan (Stoke) 5 - An average performance by Whelan who gave the ball away far too often.

Keith Andrews (Blackburn Rovers) 6 - Was one of Ireland's better players in the first half and was unlucky to see his goal ruled out. Got back to help Stephen Kelly and put in a good shift.

Damien Duff (Newcastle United) 7 - Glimpses of the old Duff was on show at Croke Park last night as the Newcastle man made a few runs to get at the 10 man defence of Georgia.

Kevin Doyle (Reading) 7 - Another good performance by Doyle who worked his socks off for the full 90 minutes. Unlucky that his header in the second half was directed right at the goalkeeper. Deserves to be playing in the Premier League.

Robbie Keane (Tottenham Hotspur) 7 - An average all round performance by the Irish captain who looked a little off the pace. However, he held his nerve to slot home the penalty and battled to score the second goal. Two goals from the Tallaght man and one can't ask for much more than that.


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