Rep of Ireland 3 Latvia 0: Three talking points
Rep of Ireland 3 Latvia 0: Three talking points as Martin O'Neill kick-starts his reign with a victory at The Aviva
New regime off to a winning start
Just like Steve Staunton did in his first match in charge as the head coach of the Republic of Ireland, the newly-installed managerial duo of Martin O’ Neill and Roy Keane began their stint with a 3-0 win. Of course, the challengers, Latvia, were not the most troubling on the night as they rarely tested Keiren Westwood and company at the back, but it was refreshing for Irish fans to see their side put in a convincing display after months of mediocrity under Giovanni Trapattoni. The delight was clear to see on the faces of O’Neill and Keane when the goals flew in, and although they will be more aware than most of the potential challenges that lie ahead, it will be a huge relief for them to begin their tenure with an emphatic victory. Goals from Robbie Keane, Aiden McGeady and Shane Long meant that the result of this friendly was never in doubt. In fact, the Boys in Green continued to battle valiantly in search of more goals even with the match well and truly wrapped up with time to spare.
Ireland look composed in possession
Aside from the feel-good factor that Friday night’s win is sure to generate, it will have been good to see Ireland put in a display that matched the scoreboard. Although the Irish are only one match into the new set-up, it seems obvious that the seeds are being sewn for a team who are keen to start getting the ball down and passing it around. In particular, the wide players of McGeady and James McClean showed tremendous sprightliness in cutting in from the wings and linking up cohesively with the central midfielders, who themselves looked calm and composed with the ball at their feet. Of course, it’s unlikely that anyone will start getting ahead of themselves in the hope that O’Neill’s charges can start to mix it with the best overnight, but it is certainly a welcome improvement. This Tuesday sees Ireland travel to play Poland – a side with far more threat than Latvia, and it will be interesting to see if they are as keen to play a possession-based game then as well. For now though, the fans can celebrate the win and the managers can breathe a sigh of relief at having safely navigated their first obstacle.
High-pressing game suits Ireland
The game plan brought to the table was simple, but it was mightily effective. Whenever the Irish were without the ball, they showed great industry in winning it back and often succeeded in turning over possession. In fact, their second goal of the match – scored by McGeady from 25-yards out – was a product of their endeavour as they rarely gave the visitors much time to settle on the ball. If they can start to perfect that, combined with a more fine-tuned approach to possession, they will find the matches against the bigger nations a lot less difficult and could even steal the odd point in important qualification matches. However, that’s a long way in the distance yet, but at least the signs are there that the new managers are keen to bring something new to the table – albeit that they were working with a squad inherited from former interim manager Noel King. To add to the positive result, it was nice to see captain Keane net his 62nd international goal to gift Ireland the lead – there’s clearly life in the old dog yet which is clearly an added bonus.