GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI SINGLED out one lapse in concentration as the moment which changed tonight’s Euro 2012 warm-up match against the Czech Republic, and almost ended the Republic of Ireland’s unbeaten streak.
It was a familar face who took full benefit of some sloppy Irish defending in the 50th minute to give the visitors the lead which the possession stats suggested they deserved. Former Liverpool and Aston Villa striker Milan Baros was left completely unmarked as John O’Shea gravitated towards the ball, and he made no mistake when finishing past Shay Given.
It was only when substitute Simon Cox showed two brilliant touches to make it 1-1 in the dying minutes that Ireland preserved their run of games without defeat, extending it to 12.
The Czechs’ dominance came as no surprise, Trapattoni said afterwards, but had it not been for the mistake which gifted Baros their only real chance of the game, Ireland’s attempt to stifle their opponents may just have worked.
It was a great mistake, this misunderstanding. The defender goes to the ball and left his opponent.
Obviously, they had more possession ball. I saw many times and I said this is a great team.
We couldn’t contain them in midfield, they were superior. But without this great misunderstanding, I think we continue in this way.
The schoolboy manner of its concession aside, Trapattoni seemed almost pleased that his team had gone behind. It gave them the opportunity to show their mentality and attitude, qualities which he prizes above all.
“We didn’t let go of the willingness to play and to be aggressive,” Trapattoni said of his team’s response to going a goal down. ”I think the draw is right.”
The decision to introduce a fresh strike duo in Jon Walters and Simon Cox for the final 20 minutes especially pleased the Italian. Their performance, and Cox’s goal, proved again that they are viable alternatives to the traditional Keane-Doyle pairing.
With the new energy, we were more aggressive, we win many balls.
They [Walters and Cox] were fundamental in pressing and also because they were very sharp. They played a very sharp game.
I am confident that we can believe also in their quality. Cox, this is third time he scored.
There was also praise from the manager for captain Robbie Keane, asked to play in a more withdrawn role behind Shane Long tonight — the “Totti role”, as Trapattoni described it on Monday.
Keane flies back to the LA Galaxy this week ahead of the beginning of the new MLS season on 10 March. The decision to go to Los Angeles, and to come back for a brief Premier League loan with Aston Villa, are clearly working to his benefit, Trapattoni said.
“He has a new energy. He is psychologically more fresh. He played well, very well.
“I think this switch did him a lot of good, both [to go and to come back]. It renewed his self-confidence.”
And what about James McClean, introduced for his debut 12 minutes from time to a raucous ovation from the 37,741 fans?
It was an award for him. McGeady and Duff, they were doing well.
It was important for him to show him that I believe in him, in his quality, and I wish to give him the confidence. I called him also ten days ago and said that I will play you also in the future.
But Trapattoni wouldn’t be pressed on whether or not the young Sunderland winger will be on the plane to Poland this summer.
“Now we have time. Every week, we have injury or no. He continue in our team and in the league, we have time to decide.”