Daryl at the double as Murphy’s brace in the first half set up a potentially mouthwatering clash with Wales on Monday night as Ireland ran out comfortable 2-0 winners at the Aviva Stadium..
A win at all costs game, with a pre-game air of expectancy may not usually go hand in hand in what we, as a footballing nation, would be most comfortable with. Regardless of the disappointment in the previous two outings, tonight was all about three points.
Despite being without such talismanic figures as James McClean, Robbie Brady et al, all those pre match jitters were put to bed just two minutes in. Daryl Murphy reacted quickest to Shane Duffy’s flick fromon to hook the ball home in what could be described as a “very Irish goal”.
Ireland really should have doubled their lead with just 15 minutes on the clock. Calum O’Dowda, who made his competitive debut against tonight’s opposition, did brilliantly to roll his man on the left wing and square to Shane Long, with the goal at his mercy missed from 14 yards out.
The Boys in Green fans needn’t have worried though, as just three minutes later Murphy got his second of the game expertly diverting his headed back across goal from Stephen Wards whipped cross.
Moldova showed they weren’t just about to roll over and midway through the half forced the idle Darren Randolph into his first meaningful action of the night. The Middlesborough stopper was at full stretch to tip over Alexandru Dedov’s left footed volley from outside the box to keep all in the Aviva on their toes.
The hosts started the second half in a worryingly subdued fashion. Everything just seemed slower, from restarts to the pressing of the ball. It took until the hour mark for the crowd to have something to cheer and at the same time look on in disbelief.
After a great run from “Wessi” Hoolahan through the heart of the Moldavan defence, he opted to lay the ball off to O’Dowda , who’s shot was blocked and the rebound spilled to Shane Long. With the keeper on the deck and the goal gaping, Long got his body shape all wrong and failed to slot into an empty net, and in doing so continuing to extend his streak of not scoring in his previous 24 games for club and country.
With a potential winner takes all encounter on the horizon, it was baffling that with the hosts being in such a comfortable position, Martin O’Neill waited until just before the 80th minute to make his first changes. Loud boo’s rang around as McGeady replaced Wes Hoolahan and Arter replaced man of the match Murphy. It seemed as if much of the anger was directed at the fact the home side reverted to one up top again.
The moment a lot of the Aviva faithful waited for came just moments later when ex-Cork City man Sean Maguire replaced Shane Long, to make his debut as the lone man in attack, albeit 20 minutes too late at least.
The game ended on a sour note when a squaring up between Harry Arter and Alexandru Dedov saw the Moldovan midfielder see red for putting his head in just a little too aggressively.
Despite the dreadful second half performance, three points was a must and, although it’s a case of job done, the same questions of our best formation, our best lineup will be in place going into Mondays encounter.
Republic of Ireland: 23. Darren Randolph, 2. Cyrus Christie, 3. Ciaran Clarke, 8. Daryl Murphy (22. Harry Arter), 9. Shane Long (11. Sean Maguire), 12. Callum O’Dowda, 13 Jeff Hendrick, 14 Wes Hoolahan (7. Aiden McGeady), 17. Stephen Ward, 18 David Meyler (c) , 20. Shane Duffy
Subs: 1. Colin Doyle, 16. Rob Elliot, 4. John O’Shea, 5. Richard Keogh, 6. Glenn Whelan, 7. Aiden McGeady, 10. Eunan O’Kane, 11. Sean Maguire, 15. Conor Hourihane, 19. Scott Hogan, 21. Kevin Long, 22. Harry Arter
Moldova: 1. Illie Cebanu, 4. Petru Racu, 6. Alexandru Epureanu (c) , 7. Artur Ionita, 8. Alexandru Gatcan, 10. Alexandru Dedov (15. Eugeniu Cociuc), 11. Radu Ginsari, 14. Vitalie Bordian, 16. Sergiu Platica (19. Vladimir Ambros), 17. Gheorghe Anton, 22. Artiom Rozgoniuc
Subs: 23. Alexei Koselev, 12. Serghei Pascenco, 3. Dinu Graur, 9. Alexandru Antoniuc, 13. Andrei Cojocari, 15. Eugeniu Cociuc, 19. Vladimir Ambros, 20. Alexandru Pascenco, 21. Petru Ojog
Referee: Bas Nijhuis (NED)
Article by: Darryl Geraghty