Long’s late strike earns Ireland incredible Euro 2016 win over Germnay
The Republic of Ireland sensationally overcame world champions and Euro 2016 qualifying Group D leaders Germany with a 1-0 victory at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, thanks to an incredible second-half strike from substitute Shane Long.
Martin O’Neill’s Boys in Green were pegged back for the majority of the clash, with Joachim Low’s visitors dominating play, but a passionate and committed performance saw them secure a stunning triumph in front of rapturous home support.
Ireland’s famous result in the capital was helped by a battling display from their impressive defensive unit, and they have now assured themselves of at least a play-off spot in the group after Poland’s draw with Scotland, but a win in Warsaw on Sunday would see them leapfrog the Poles into second place.
Covering for the injured Seamus Coleman at right back, Derby County’s Cyrus Christie was immediately caught napping down his flank, letting Mario Gotze slip past, with Stephen Ward having to make a strong challenge to deny Thomas Muller from his teammate’s eventual cross.
The Germans dominated the early stages in the Irish capital as expected, with attacking onslaughts only ceasing upon failed attempts on goal from the visitors, though O’Neill’s men managed to keep up intense pressure further forward and managed to break several times.
Joachim Low’s full backs Matthias Ginter and Jonas Hector provided a great deal of width and were constant outlets, with the latter’s impressive wingplay gifting Gotze space to tee-up Ilkay Gundogan after 13 minutes, but John O’Shea made a heroic block to deny his placed-effort.
Width almost proved to be the decisive factor with quarter of hour gone, with Ginter driving a low cross towards a cunningly-lurking Gotze in the Irish penalty area, but this time it was Richard Keogh who made a last-ditch clearance.
Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil soon thought he had opened Germany’s account with a deft touch on Marco Reus’ whipped delivery from the left flank, but the German attacking midfielder had his strike rightfully ruled out for offisde.
Ireland settled into proceedings midway through the first period, beginning to keep possession, but last season’s Championship top scorer Daryl Murphy was their main target of attacks, with lofted balls being aimed towards him at every opportunity.
Although, nice build-up play from Wes Hoolahan eventually led to Christie making a wandering run down the right flank and a dangerous cross from the Championship full back followed, but Stoke City’s Jonathan Walters was unable to get enough power behind his touch.
His close-range effort was comfortably dealt with by the towering figure of Manuel Neuer in goal, with the Potters forward then appealing for a penalty off a Mats Hummels collision, though the referee waved off any hopeful claims.
Veteran Irish stopper Shay Given had to watch on for the majority of Germany’s possession-play, but the Stoke goal guard was called upon to wind down the clock and launch long punts forward in search of Murphy as play unfolded.
In the Premier League for Everton, James McCarthy is highly-regarded for his creative abilities, but the Ireland anchorman had to track back on numerous occasions to help out his defence, even fairly flattening Gotze in the process before earning a free-kick after 33 minutes.
Having left the action momentarily for treatment, Bayern Munich’s attacker was replaced by the player who set up his World Cup winning strike in Brazil last summer, as Wolfsburg forward Andre Schurrle entered the fray.
Injuries became a running theme towards the break, but this time it was Ireland’s turn for misfortune, as Given was forced off with a knee problem, after a frustrating delay, and replaced by out-of-favour West Ham United stopper Darron Randolph for only his third cap.
The oncoming reserve goalkeeper had little to do on his introduction, as a defiant Irish set-up solidly held out the constant flow of pressure before the referee blew for half-time.
Low’s travelling world champions continued where they left off in the second period, dominating possession from deep, with Jerome Boateng and Hummels seeing plenty of the ball, but the Irish line-up stuck to their unwavering shape.
Norwich City’s maestro Hoolahan was a constant source of attacking spark for the Irish, along with club teammate Robbie Brady in midfield, and the latter saw his lofted free-kick from deep collected by Neuer despite Walters’ presence.
Jeff Hendrick and midfield partner McCarthy grew into proceedings as play reached the hour mark in Dublin, but Borussia Dortmund defender Hummels was a composed figure in the heart of Germany’s rear guard, thwarting any incoming crosses from Christie and Brady.
Ipswich Town frontman Murphy had never scored an international goal but was fortunately gifted with a chance to do so with 20 minutes to go, though his effort sailed narrowly wide, before being replaced by Southampton striker Long.
It didn’t take long for the Premier League poacher to make an impact, as the pacey Tipperary forward latched onto a clearance from Randolph, holding off the German defence to incredibly fire past a diving Neuer to give Ireland a sensational late lead.
Bayern and Die Mannschaft marksman Muller came into the clash as his country’s top scorer in qualifying, but in the dying stages in Dublin, the Bundesliga hitman somehow sent his close-range shot wide of Randolph’s gaping net.
Munich stopper Neuer was at his usual antics of sweeping up play close to the half-way line with moments remaining, but Ireland superbly held out a late surge to acquire a remarkable three points thanks to Long’s late strike.