Sunday, July 31, 2011

Airtricity League XI 0-5 Glasgow Celtic 2pm Sunday 31st July 2011

On a warm sultry July Sunday, Dublin was treated to an entertaining, pacy affair at Lansdowne Road. Damien Richardson rang the changes from the encouraging if ultimately disappointing Man City clash the previous day. The Sunday selection contained only Ger Doherty in goal from the Saturday, and took some time to settle. They enjoyed the lion’s share  of ball, and though McCourt and co. in the middle were prominent, the League side brought the game to the Celts early on. A left-field drive with the right boot from Daniel Kearns stretch Dom Cervi in the Scots’ goal.

It was always going to be a ding-dong in the middle of the pitch between former Derry and Shamrock Rovers superstar Pat McCourt and Northern Ireland-born Dundalk midfielder Daniel Kearns.

Ger Doherty was well-guarded in the early stages, forcing Celtic to shoot from deep, one long shot from Victor Wanyama well wide to Doherty’s left. Owen Heary and Aidan Price, Bohemians’ strongmen contained any threat from Hooper and Stokes, while Gareth McGlynn and Jason Byrne looked menacing up front. McGlynn took a knock to his right knee on 20 minutes, and the question was whose fitness would make the difference as the game progressed.

Filip Twardsik was tested regularly for the Hoops as Gareth McGlynn and Byrne tried to fashion chances from the excellent possession won by Kearns and Sligo’s Danny Ventre. Derry midfielder Daniel Lafferty and Dean Bennett hooked up well to make things hot for Adam Matthews and captain Daniel Majstorovic. Meanwhile Stokes was beginning to make a nuisance of himself for Ryan McBride, and after frantic defending by Aidan Price and Heaary, stokes brought a huge left-top-corner save from Doherty.

McGlynn made way for John Dillon after his knee injury was exacerbated in the 33rd minute. Set pieces proved a problem for both sides as play got sloppy in the second quarter. The Glasgow side struck in the 39th minute when Darryl Murphy beat McBride to pull back for Stokes to slot home from the penalty spot. A minute later Doherty was quick to snuff out a break from Hooper to save further heartache for the Irish outfit.

McCourt drew a free on the right-hand corner of the box after obstruction was given against Heary but Twardsik lifted the dead-ball over wall and crossbar. 1-0 to Scotland’s finest at the break.

Barry Murphy made his Aviva stadium debut at half-time coming on for the obviously tired Ger Doherty.

The Airtricity XI kicked off aiming for the goal Anthony Stokes scored into in the first-half. However Celtic looked more like scoring with consistent raids from Gary Hooper and Anthony Stokes but no goals were actually scored.

The aggressiveness of Celtic really kicked in as Hooper floored Danny Ventre but the Airtricity XI could make nothing from the long ball played.

The Airtricity XI’s Daniel Lafferty forced a brilliant Cervi save and Daniel Kearns’ deflected rebound won the Select a corner but as the games have gone nothing was to come from it.

Barry Murphy was called into his first period of action after his Bohs team-mate missed out on a long ball as Hooper found himself with yards of space but Murphy spread himself well to protect his net.

Airtricity really made the ball work with Heary and Lafferty down the right but nothing came of it as Sligo’s creative mastermind John Russell replaced Dundalk player Dean Bennett.

Kris Commons took over from Richie Towell for the Bhoys on 58 as Celtic tried to assert their superiority.  Stokes came in with a searing run from the right, but Price was equal to it and the danger was averted once again. Irish international Darren O’Dea is showing increased maturity in the Celtic defense, typified by his coolness with his back to goal. The LoI boys were similarly assured as the Celtic frontline threatened, Heary having an immense captain’s performance and justifying his extra responsibility.

Kearns took a more central as the final quarter approached, proving something of a menace. Stephen McLaughlin came in to give Jason Byrne a break before a blatant handball by Ventre gave Daryl Murphy a penalty which he coolly slotted to Barry Murphy’s left sending him the wrong way. As the previous day, Celtic displayed a confidence similar to Manchester City’s and that was proving the key as the League XI failed to break them down. Sean Maloney was introduced for scorer Murphy on 70 minutes and was immediately in the action in midfield.

The LoI’s hottest prospect, gaining considerable interest from Wigan, James McLean, man-of-the-match from Saturday replaced Daniel Kearns, himself the League XI’s best performer on the day. Joe Gamble, quiet for much of this contest, tricked his way in along the bye-line from the left, but McLean was unable to capitalise on his low cross. Gamble took a chance from 25 yards a minute later, but pulled it well wide of the mark.

Good Celtic pressure started by Sean Maloney, laying it off to McCourt whose cross was controlled with balletic grace by Stokes and his shot across the box screamed just outside the right post of Barry Murphy.  Daryl Kavanagh got another chance to show his considerable skills when coming in for Danny Ventre with 10 minutes on the clock. A sweet through-ball from Commons to the frustrated Hooper saw him stroke a beauty right-to-left past the sprawling Murphy. He added his second, Celtic’s fourth, two minutes later from sustained pressure to add to the misery for this spirited League of Ireland side.

On the 87th minute, as he was announced Man of the Match, Anthony Stokes added his own little piece of brilliance with a shot over Murphy’s head that completed the rout. As always, greater fitness was what undid the League side, but this was not a 5-0 performance. They can hold their heads high. Let’s focus on Europe in the coming week.

Jerome & Donagh Corby.

Airtricity League XI 0-3 Manchester City 30-07-2011 2 PM

A typical cloudy but fresh July day in Dublin saw a typical pre-season tournament get underway with Damien Richardson’s charges taking on an ordinary Man City lineup at Lansdowne. The Aviva turf was looking good, and allowed the teams to spread the ball regularly.

Top-heavy with Derry City players, the LoI representatives acquitted themselves well first half, against a team that played possession football to begin with, without trying to test the opposition out too much.

Ger Doherty was rarely tested in goal with his own full-back line (except for Bohs’ Ger O’Brien) snuffing out the few chances Manchester City fashioned. Shaun Wright-Phillips did threaten in the early exchanges and pulled an excellent full-stretch save from Doherty after clearing a path past Stewart Greacen and Shane McEleney at the front of the box. Vladimir Weiss on the left flank showed creativity, but no real clear-cut chances materialised from it. Greacen, McEleney, Molloy and O’Brien looked more comfortable as the half wore on.

Up front, Daryl Kavanagh created a few decent efforts, but finishing was a problem. James McLean playing down the left troubled Frederic Veseli on occasions, and some deft touches from an in-form Eamon Zayed brought some few chances but without delivering results. Apart from a hopeful Ger O’Brien ballooned shot, the first half ended with both teams very evenly matched. The League side had good reason to look forward to the second half.

City upped the intensity in the first 5 minutes of the second half, but were well stewarded by the LoI defence. A nice through-ball to John Guidetti was skewed over the left-side of the crossbar. James McLean failed to make use of a well-weighted ball over the top before Wright-Phillips broke the deadlock in the 51st with a sweet left-footed ball along the turf to beat a sprawling Doherty from 6 metres.

A consistent spell of Manchester City pressure surely promised another goal but the Airtricity XI were the next team with a dangerous looking chance only for an on-rushing Eamon Zayed to be caught offside.

Manchester City were clearly on top as Shaun Wright Phillips was pushed out of the way by an aggressive Airtricity defence. The introduction of Joe Gamble on 55 minutes for Derry City star RuadhrĂ­ Higgins was more than likely Richardson trying to empty the bench.

City struck again through English international Adam Johnson just before the hour mark after a sweet curl around on-rushing goalkeeper Ger Doherty in the Southern goal.

Substitute Gamble then spurned a glorious chance to put the League back in the game after a cross from Bohemians’ O’Brien landed perfectly at his feet but he couldn’t connect properly and the ball flew into the low North Stand. That pretty much summarised the Airtricity’s performance. Just about not good enough.

Infamous City player Vladimir Weiss won them a corner on 64 minutes but a poor delivery left the Airtricity select to clear easily. It was to be his last action in the game as Mancini took him off for Denis Suarez.

The Airtricity XI continued to press but could not produce results for their efforts. It even looked like City substitute Suarez could put the game out of reach on 66 but his chance was taken from him at the wave of the linesman’s offside flag.

On 69 minutes City made their second sub of the game Frederic Veseli coming off for Rekik.

72 minutes in it looked like McLean had scored for Airtricity but it wasn’t to be as Man city cleared for a corner which as per usual landed straight into Stuart Taylor’s safe hands.

Wright-Phillips put a 3rd into the net, but the offside flag ruled the goal out just before Daryl Kavanagh made way for Dean Bennett.

Good breaks were the name of the game for Manchester City but it seemed that the 3rd goal was proving elusive for the Premier League representatives in this tournament.

Wigan target McLean really made a nuisance of himself in the Man City half as he made some great chances as well as on 80 minutes scaring the City goalkeeper with a 20 yard shot that grazed the crossbar.

2 substitutions (1 on either side) then - firstly Scapuzzi coming on for scorer Wright-Phillips who immediately made the score 3-0 as well as Lafferty coming on for Northern Irish international James McLean.

Barry and Taylor left play for Roman and Johansen respectively as the Airtricity XI looked for some consolation in keeping the score at only 3-0. However Gamble looked like ruining that goal as his attempted Cruyff turn gave the ball to Razak and Limerick FC’s latest acquisition was left to thank his lucky stars that the score stayed at 3-0.

Aiden Price was brought on 91 minutes in for McEleney.

As the final whistle blew Airtricity XI were looking at this game as an improvement on the disastrous result from last year.