Rep of Ireland 4 USA 1: Three talking points
Three talking points as Republic of Ireland are emphatic 4-1 winners
Experimental Irish XI
In what was the Republic of Ireland’s final match of 2014, Martin O’Neill decided upon what was a very experimental starting XI, bringing in some faces of old and some never seen before. Stalwart Shay Given started in goal, while Ipswich Town’s Cyrus Christie and Derby County striker David McGoldrick made their debuts in the green jersey. Not content just to make wholesale changes, O’Neill implemented a new formation. The Ireland manager opted for a relatively untried 4-3-3 formation, which reverted to a 4-2-3-1 at times. It was a brand new back-four which saw Robbie Brady playing in the unusual position of left-back, Alex Pearce and Ciaran Clark occupied the centre-back positions, while Christie slotted in on the right-hand side. A midfield trio of David Meyler (who was named captain), Stephen Quinn and Anthony Pilkington allowed for a three-pronged attack of Anthony Stokes and Ipswich duo McGoldrick and Daryl Murphy. The new formation allowed for extra bodies in midfield, a position of the pitch where Ireland have usually struggled to boss.
A night of positives and good Irish play
Ireland played some splendid attacking football throughout the course of the night. Irish debutant McGoldrick showed poise and precision to play in Pilkington in the seventh minute as the home side capitalised on a high USA backline. McGoldrick weighed up his options and placed a beautiful, outside the foot pass into the on-rushing Pilkington, who dinked the ball over Bill Hamid to open the scoring, McGoldrick’s ball was reminiscent of the style of passing often seen from Wes Hoolahan. Stokes and Brady occupied the left-side of the field for the Irish, and while neither are renowned for their defensive capabilities, they turned out extremely positive performances in unfamiliar positions. Brady capped off a fine evening with a brace. The first to put Ireland 2-1 up and back in front from close range, while the second put Ireland 4-1 ahead. The latter strike was a beautiful left-footed free-kick that arced into the USA goal and raised the decibel level to its highest of the night. The only blemish was Meyler’s woefully misplaced pass which left the Irish wide open, and the Americans duly obliged and levelled up the score six minutes before half-time as Mix Dikerud netted from close range. Given turned back the clock and denied the visitors with two fantastic saves with his feet. From 1 to 11, it was good night for the Irish.
Delight as debutants dazzle
Both McGoldrick and Christie should wake up on Wednesday morning grinning from ear-to-ear. The English-born duo turned in impressive home debuts at Aviva Stadium. McGoldrick had a hand in both goals for the Republic; the first, a beautifully weighted defensive-splitting pass into Pilkington, who finished with aplomb. His second assist of the night was equally impressive. After Ireland had harried USA and won back possession on the left-hand side of the away team’s box, McGoldrick chopped the ball with a fantastic bit of skill into the path of Brady, who put the Boys in Green ahead for the second time. And if a two assists wasn’t enough, the 26-year-old received a standing ovation as he was replaced on 78 minutes. Fellow debutant Christie didn’t quite start as quickly as he would have liked to. Midway through the first half, Given came 25 yards from goal to offer the youngster some advice, but as the game wore on, Christie excelled. Composed and robust on the ball, the 22-year-old also picked some nice forward passes. Not content with just filling out his defensive duties, the Derby County player attacked his opposite number and really grew into the game. His positioning was close to perfection and the Coventry born man has surely brought himself into O’Neill’s long-term plans.