Republic of Ireland and England play out goalless stalemate in Dublin
Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland were held to a scoreless stalemate by England at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, ahead of their crucial Euro 2016 qualifying clash with Scotland, in an international friendly which failed to live up to its hype.
The Boys in Green will contest Gordon Strachan’s Scots in a vital qualifier in the coming days, knowing a victory will surely be required to book their place in France for next summer, but preparations took a comfortable turn against Roy Hodgson’s Three Lions in the capital with a goalless draw.
With the towering figure of Daryl Murphy up front for the hosts, Ireland added early pressure by launching lofted passes towards the Ipswich Town frontman, and Robbie Brady’s left sided delivery after just seven minutes almost saw the in-form striker connect clinically, if not for Gary Cahill’s presence.
Manchester United’s Phil Jones was chosen at right back and he faced a tough task of thwarting the threat of former Celtic wingman Aiden McGeady, with the Everton wideman sending a fizzing cross towards David McGoldrick after 15 minutes, but England again dealt with the danger.
Brady’s set piece deliveries were always going to be a key attacking threat for the Irish and the Hull City winger’s free-kick from the right flank almost gifted McGoldrick with another chance, but Wayne Rooney managed to clear the cross during defensive duties.
With a great Liverpool following in the Irish capital, Raheem Sterling’s time on the ball was met with moments of jeers from the crowd, and the Reds’ contract rebel was unable to cause any danger in the first period, as Marc Wilson dealt with his attacking approach on the right wing.
The best chance of the first 45 minutes came when Murphy found himself through on goal before the half hour mark, latching on to a header from James McCarthy, but the Championship’s top scorer saw his attempt stopped by a swift save from Joe Hart.
In a red versus blue battle of Merseyside wingers, McGeady kept Sterling at bay before half-time, as the Liverpool forward tried to pick out his skipper Wayne Rooney in the penalty area, but to no avail.
Murphy again had a chance to send the Irish in front before the break, as he connected with an impressive in-swinging free-kick from Brady, but his header was sent wide as England endured another reprieve.
In a hopeful switch of fortunes, James McClean and Shane Long were introduced at half-time, with McCarthy and McGoldrick making way, as O’Neill injected some pace into his line-up with this attacking duo.
Stoke defender Wilson gifted Jordan Henderson with a chance to play Rooney in on goal soon after the break, but the Red Devils captain’s touch let him down at the crucial moment as Irish goal guard Kieran Westwood collected the ball comfortably.
Jack Wilshere, playing a deep holding midfield role, continued to dictate his nation’s attacking force, playing in Sterling on the left flank close to the hour mark, but the Reds playmaker could only steer his effort wide of the right post.
As this friendly encounter in Dublin continued to provide little excitement for the sell-out Aviva crowd, O’Neill opted to switch his man between the sticks, as veteran Shay Given replaced Westwood in goal. Although, the Aston Villa shot stopper had, like his international counterpart, minimal work to do.
Leicester City attacker Jamie Vardy made his England debut with 15 minutes left to play, but the Foxes forward was unable to make a goalscoring contribution as the two rivals played out a goalless draw in the Irish capital.