©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan
As it happened: Kazakhstan v Republic of Ireland, World Cup 2014 qualifier
The road to Rio started with what should have been a straightforward night against the world’s 142nd best team. Catch up with the action from Astana in our minute-by-minute report.

We went minute-by-minute as Ireland travelled to Kazakhstan for their opening World Cup 2014 qualifier. It was… emm… it was something, that’s for sure.

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Kazakhstan 1-2 Republic of Ireland

Evening all. Five o’clock is the new quarter-to-eight, so what better way to kick start your weekend than with some competitive international football.

Yes, you have to watch Ireland. No, it’s not optional.

Giovanni Trapattoni and his (slightly) new-look Boys in Green are in Astana for their opening 2014 World Cup qualifier; the first ginger steps (we’re looking at you, Paul McShane) on the road to Rio.

Kick-off is in 15 minutes so if you’re still at the desk, already in the pub, on a bus or on a train, make sure you stay with us for the latest updates.

Here’s how tonight’s hosts line out. I can’t pronounce most of the names but at the very least I’ll try to spell them consistently.

Kazakhstan: Sidelnikov, Kirov, Kislitsyn, Mukhtarov, Nurdauletov (c), Konysbaev, Bogdanov, Ostapenko, Schmidtgal, Nusserbayev, Roshkov.

And here’s Trapattoni’s XI as announced yesterday. Kieran Westwood in goal, James McCarthy makes his first competitive start in midfield, Simon Cox is out on the wing and Jon Walters gets the nod to partner Robbie Keane up front.

Republic of Ireland: Westwood, O’Shea, St Ledger, O’Dea, Ward, Whelan, McCarthy, McGeady, Cox, Walters, Keane.

An estimated 200 hardy Irish fans have made the 3,000-mile trip to Astana. They’re making their voices heard as best they can as the band belts out both national anthems. Not long now.

Just to clarify, this is not the Kazakhstan national anthem. It is long though.

Paul Ryan: Fair play to Simon Cox for learning Amhrán na bhFiann.

Missed that (too busy searching YouTube for the obligatory Borat clip) but fair play to Coxy if that’s the case.

They’re just wrapping up the last of the pre-match formalities with both captains reading the Fair Play statement. Or is it the Respect statement? A solid moral message either way.

Kazakhstan captain Kairat Nurdauletov’s hands are shaking as he reads from his script. Either he doesn’t do public speaking all that often or he knows he’s in the presence of greatness as he rubs shoulders with Robbie.

KICK-OFF: We’re up and running. As expected, Cox starts out on the right with McGeady in the left. O’Shea is at right-full with St Ledger and O’Dea in the middle of defence.

All of the early pressure is coming from Ireland and James McCarthy draws the first save of the evening from Sidelnikov. The Wigan midfielder tries to curl one from the edge of the box into the bottom corner but the keeper is down to tip it around the post.

A barrage of corners follows with half-chances for both O’Shea and Walters but Kazakhstan survive. Still, a good positive start from Ireland.

Over on Facebook, the predictions are coming in. The pessimism of earlier seems to have been replaced by that Friday feeling:

Mick ‘The Bull’ Daly: I hate the excuses that are made, ”oh the pitch is shite” get over it

Barry Curtin: your not allowed slide tackle on astroturf

I’m not making excuses but there does seem to be a good bit of water on the pitch. Has it been raining in Astana? And yes, Barry’s right. No sliding on the Astroturf.

Despite their lowly place (142nd) in the FIFA Rankings, this Kazakhstan side are no mugs. The crowd in the Astana Arena isn’t huge but those who are there make their voices heard as Nusserbayev breaks into space in front of the box. With the Irish defence retreating, he has all the time in the world to pick out Kirov on the overlap but overhits his pass.

Kazakhstan concede possession away cheaply in midfield but Glenn Whelan gives it straight back just as easily, misjudging a pass that could’ve set Aiden McGeady free inside the box.

“It’s incredible how we are playing route one football where as they can pass straight through us with ease,” writes Conor Flynn. “They’re much more confident.”

As we near the 20-minute mark, Ireland are relying on the direct approach to Keane and Walters. Kazakhstan’s lone striker Ostapenko is getting much more ball into his feed which allowing him to bring the midfield into the game in advanced positions. Schmidtgal tries to cross for Nusserbayev but Westwood watches it past his back post.

A bit of a scare for Ireland as Westwood needs to get down quickly at the feet of Konysbaev to prevent him from capitalising on a loose ball in the box. The midfielder was in an offside position as it broke to him but still, they’re half-chances Ireland could do without conceding.

Ireland’s best passage of play so far sees some nice interplay between McCarthy and Cox, and then Cox and Walters on the edge of the box. Rather than cross, Cox tries his luck from a narrow angle and ends up with nothing but net — side-net, that is.

From a quick free-kick out to the left wing, Simon Cox hoofs a hopeful ball into the box where it’s cleared away before John O’Shea even manages to leave his feet. Pretty uninspiring stuff from Ireland so far — and that’s me being nice.

“Does anyone have a bottle of Optrex I can borrow,” Will asks. “Because this is hurting my eyes.”

Aiden McGeady appears to have been boxed in in the corner but somehow manages to dig the ball out and cross to Robbie Keane, the only man in the box. Keane gets a bit of a nudge from Rozhkov and that’s enough to send him flying, arms flailing everywhere.

On the half-hour mark, Nusserbayev picks up the evening’s first booking for a cruncher on John O’Shea. Deserved.

McGeady’s free to the back post has Sidelnikov scrambling but it’s knocked behind for a corner before O’Dea can make any meaningful contact.

Ireland on the back foot again as Nusserbayev runs at a retreating Irish defence. He plays it short to Schmidtgal who tries to cut back inside but by the time he finally pulls the trigger, O’Dea is on top of him to smother the danger.

GOAL! Kazakhstan 1-0 Republic Ireland (Nurdauletov, 37′) Yes, yes, yes – Kazakhstan is the greatest country of them all. Schmidtgal — who has put in some good deliveries tonight — whips in a near-post cross with a free from the right, captain Nurdauletov gets a headed flick and the pace of the ball carries it into the net before Westwood had a chance.

Great. Just great.

“This is a f****** shambles,” writes Les Rock, echoing the sentiments of a nation — and it very nearly gets worse. Bogdanov’s long-range effort is palmed straight back out by Westwood and the rebound comes back off the post. The fact that the linesman’s flag is up is no consolation at all unfortunately.

A minute plus stoppage time to play.

HALF TIME: Kazakhstan 1-0 Republic of Ireland

Something needs to change, and fast, or else we’ll be filing this one with Cyprus and Macedonia. What a shambles.

“How did we get so bad so suddenly” is the question being floated in HQ over the half-time oranges. My sarcasm detector isn’t always the best but I’m guessing that’s not worthy of a response.

This email landed during that first-half disaster. Everyone say hi to Derek.


Can everyone give a shout-out to my mate Derek?  I’m visiting him in Galway hospital and we’re following the match on The Score.

John The Bad.

“Caveman stuff” is how John Giles has described that first-half and he’s not wrong.

If you’re looking for someone to blame for the goal, look to Stephen Ward for giving away the easy free with a lazy tackle or Glenn Whelan for trying to mark Nurdauletov from two yards away.

Now for the best thing to happen since this whole sorry charade kicked off: time for me to have my dinner.

My colleague Patrick McCarry has just texted to say that Ireland’s “filth-addled” performance is ruining his honeymoon. You’ve a lot to answer for, Trap.

I’m no international manager (Football Manager doesn’t count, right?) and I’ve won less than Trapattoni in my time (Football Manager doesn’t count, right?) but the secret here is to stop hoofing the ball to Walters and hoping for a lucky break, surely.

In the history of their World Cup qualifiers, Kazakhstan have only ever beaten Andorra. Chew on that.

SECOND HALF: We’re up and running again. No changes on either side, sadly.

James McCarthy tries to cause some mischief with a deft touch to cut in behind his marker from the right but loses his footing inside the box. No contact, no foul. Damn you, Astroturf.

I wish I had something positive to type here but I don’t really. Same old, same old. The Irish players who were warming up have sat back down again.

McGeady has a chance to make some sort of an impression with a free kick from deep on the left but it’s way, way, way too close to Sidelnikov who palms it behind for a corner.

Substitution: 57 minutes in and Kevin Doyle comes on for Simon Cox. Looks like Walters is going to drop to play on the right wing — sure if you’re going to play one out of position, why not play them all out of position?

McGeady gets down the left to the endline but there’s nobody to challenge when he cuts the ball back to the middle of the area and the goalscorer Nurdauletov sidefoots it clear.

Good, confident claim from Westwood who comes all the way past the penalty spot to take a punt off the head of Ostapenko.

“It’s certainly not football the Barcelona way,” says George Hamilton. You’ve got that one right, George.

Again, Ireland are reduced to a rather predictable ball from McGeady into the box and again Kazakhstan have plenty of men to fend off the threat. Mukhtarov wins the header this time.

Nusserbayev tries his luck from distance but it’s a foot or two wide of Westwood’s left post. Had it been any closer, the keeper would’ve certainly saved it.

Substitutions: Changes for either side. Dzolchiyev comes on for Nusserbayev, and Long comes on for Walters.

If you’re trying to keep track of who is playing where, it looks like Long is going out on the right now. If you’re keeping count, that’s three strikers who have played on the wing tonight. So far.

15 minutes to go. Ireland do not look like scoring…

That was very nearly curtains for Ireland. Dzolchiyev outmuscles St Ledger and drills the ball low inside Westwood’s near post. He gets down to tip it behind but that really should’ve been Kazakhstan’s second.

Ten minutes to go. Part of me wants tonight to last for as long as it takes Ireland to score twice; the other part wants this to end as quickly as possible.

The chances falling to Ireland can’t even be described as half-chances — quarter- or eighth-chances would be more accurate. McCarthy volleys a breaking ball into the Astroturf in an attempt at something different but the result is the same. Kazakhstan clear.

Substitution: With five minutes to go, Gridin comes on to replace Konysbaev.

PENALTY TO IRELAND! There is the get out of jail card. Doyle crosses from the left, Mukhtarov skews his cross towards the line and as Robbie Keane stretches to prod it in, he’s dragged down by Rozhkov.

It will be Robbie Keane to save Ireland from total embarrassment…

GOAL! Kazakhstan 1-1 Republic of Ireland (Keane pen, 89′) Keeper goes right, Robbie goes left. Trapattoni might well live to fight another day.

GOAL! Kazakhstan 1-2 Republic of Ireland (Doyle, 90′) WOW. WOW. WOW. A long free kick isn’t dealt with Kazakhstan and Doyle is on hand to slam the ball home from close range. How did Ireland get away with this one? With four minutes of injury time to go, it looks like they’ll be leaving Astana with three points. Remarkable.

FULL TIME: Kazakhstan 1-2 Republic of Ireland

How do you even begin to describe that? 88 minutes of awful, turgid rubbish followed by 120 seconds of sheer insanity. Ireland get out of jail in a major way but the message from Ronnie Whelan and the pundits on RTÉ is the same — a smash-and-grab win against the 142nd best team in the world should not paper over the cracks of how awful Ireland were.

Kevin Doyle is your man of the match, obviously. Had it been awarded on 88 minutes, even RTÉ would have given it to a Kazakhstan player.

And if you’re in the business in sparing a thought for others, the entire nation of Kazakhstan probably deserves your sympathy, as does the person who laid Ireland at 109/1 on Betfair towards the end of the game.

That’s it from me for tonight. Stay with us for all the reaction and analysis from Astana.

It was shambolic but on the plus side, at least we can still salvage something from this Friday night. See yiz in Coppers?

POLL: What result do you expect from Ireland’s meeting with Kazakhstan?

Preview: A new journey begins, as Ireland face Kazakhstan

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