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Dublin: 4 °C Friday 23 February, 2018
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3 winners and 3 losers from the Ireland-England game

It was a good day for the FAI and the Gardaí, but a less than satisfactory one for Roy Hodgson.

Ireland's Harry Arter appeals for a late penalty to referee Arnold Hunter.
Ireland's Harry Arter appeals for a late penalty to referee Arnold Hunter.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Winners

1. The Gardaí and the FAI

THERE WAS SOME concern in the build-up yesterday that there could be trouble between the two sets of fans at the Aviva Stadium.

The fears were mainly caused by this fixture’s problematic history — the last time the teams met on Irish soil, trouble erupted in the form of a riot prompted by the English hooligan group Combat 18, while there was fighting on O’Connell Street in the aftermath of a Euro 92 qualifier involving the two sides.

And while the crowd’s behaviour was not entirely exemplary — a section of the home support booed the English national anthem — the game essentially passed by without incident (arguably off the pitch and on it).

The Gardaí and the FAI will consequently be relieved that the meticulous security measures that were put in place ultimately proved a success.

It was a welcome boost for John Delaney and co in particular, after what was a turbulent week for the association.

2. Keiren Westwood

Keiren Westood earned his 18th cap for Ireland yesterday, but it was his first appearance for the Boys in Green under Martin O’Neill.

Indeed, there must have been times in recent months when the 30-year-old feared for his international future, as he was left out of a couple of squads by the Derry native.

This afternoon was consequently the goalkeeper’s first appearance at international level overall since a 0-0 friendly with Wales in 2013.

Should he play next week against the Scots, it would be just Westwood’s fifth competitive start for Ireland in total — the Manchester-born goalkeeper previously played in wins over Faroe Islands, Macedonia and Kazakhstan, as well as the infamous 6-1 defeat by Germany.

The Sheffield Wednesday goalkeeper’s re-appearance in the Ireland side consequently marks a remarkable turnaround — last season, he was without a club after being released by Sunderland, but now he could cap off an excellent campaign in which he made the Championship team of the year with a starting spot in his country’s most important game in a long time.

3. Robbie Brady

There have been regular question marks over playing Robbie Brady at left-back for Ireland of late.

The former Manchester United player looked shaky at times in Ireland’s last Euro 2016 qualifier with Poland, and was partially at fault for the concession of the opening goal.

There is no doubting the Hull man’s prowess in attack — he demonstrated his talent going forward in last November’s emphatic defeat of USA.

On Sunday, however, Brady silenced critics of the defensive side of his game, restricting the highly-rated Raheem Sterling to scraps and generally having a solid game at the back.

Accordingly, the 23-year-old’s man-of-the-match award was well-deserved, and his display even led to particular praise from manager Martin O’Neill.

And with few other strong candidates to start in the left-back spot, O’Neill appears set to place his faith in Brady once again against Scotland next week.

Losers

1. The fans

Ireland supporters Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

(Ireland supporters pictured at Sunday’s game)

Even by international friendly standards, yesterday’s England-Ireland match could politely be described as uneventful.

It was especially disappointing given the inevitable hype that ensued ahead of the first meeting between the two sides in over 20 years on Irish soil.

Various chants about John Delaney and Sepp Blatter, as well as the booing of Raheem Sterling from a section of the home support, got people talking. However, in truth, these relatively minor issues were only widely discussed because the on-field action was so dour.

On the evidence of Sunday afternoon’s encounter therefore, many people probably wouldn’t mind too much if it was another 20 years before the teams met again at the Aviva Stadium.

2. Roy Hodgson

If Ireland were somewhat disappointing in attack during this warm-up for a vital Euro 2016 qualifier despite defending competently throughout, England were equally bad — if not worse.

Granted, as Roy Hodgson pointed out afterwards, the Three Lions have now gone almost a year without losing.

However, the manner of the performance will hardly fill the manager with optimism for the future, with few England players making a significant impression on proceedings.

That said, the fact that it was merely an end-of-season friendly will ensure Messrs Hodgson and O’Neill won’t be losing too much sleep over their teams’ various deficiencies yesterday.

3. The Ipswich strikers

Neither Daryl Murphy nor David McGoldrick played particularly badly, but both will probably be disappointed with their displays having been handed surprise starts at the Aviva yesterday.

McGoldrick, earning his second cap, looked particularly sluggish, having only just returned from a long-term injury that meant he missed a large portion of Ipswich’s season.

Meanwhile, Murphy was probably slightly more influential than his club colleague and held the ball up well at times, but missed two decent chances to score, a goal which would have lived long in the memory, against Ireland’s biggest rivals.

And while neither are likely to be too harshly judged on the back of Sunday’s game, chances currently seem few and far between for Championship players at international level (just one from the league started for Ireland against Poland), and neither Ipswich striker is likely to have done enough to convince Martin O’Neill to gamble on their selection against Scotland.

Scholes blasts England after Ireland draw: That was a waste of an afternoon>

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