Ireland 1-2 Turkey
ON PAPER THIS should have been the easiest of Ireland’s four summer friendlies and with Jon Walters’ strike turning out to be little more than a consolation, there will be plenty for Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane to work on in the coming weeks.
Goals in either half from Ahmet Ozek and Osman Camdal handed Ireland’s new management duo a second straight home defeat — hardly desirable but there is a bigger picture to consider as well.
O’Neill promised to use these games to experiment and get to know his players, formations and combinations ahead of the serious business of competitive qualifiers in the autumn.
To that end he handed Rob Eliot his first senior cap — a deserved reward after the keeper chose international duty over his own stag party — and moved Marc Wilson into midfield alongside Glenn Whelan.
Neither disgraced themselves. Elliot couldn’t really be faulted for either goal, and had a quiet night otherwise, while Wilson has become well accustomed to that central holding role at Stoke.
But without James McCarthy, and with David Meyler restricted to a sub appearance after carrying a calf injury during the week, Ireland’s central pairing lacked a bit of attacking zap.
It put the onus on Aiden McGeady and Wes Hoolahan and they carried it superbly, marking themselves out as the best performers on the night.
“I thought we created a lot of chances in the game and I genuinely don’t know how we lost the match,” O’Neill said afterwards.
“A combination of things — probably poor finishing, some great saves by the goalkeeper as well, but we should have had the game out of sight by half time.”
It’s a fair analysis of the first half. Ozek’s bullet header in the 17th minute finished off a sweeping Turkish counter-attack but up to that point, Ireland dominated and should have had at least one goal to their name.
Shane Long had a gilt-edged chance after a goalmouth scramble fell to him four yards out but he shot straight at Kivrak. John O’Shea very nearly turned Hoolahan’s follow-up in but was denied on the line.
Long also had what looked to be a legitimate penalty appeal waved away as early as the fifth minute when he tangled with Omer Toprak on the edge of the box, while Stephen Ward whistled a low shot just wide on one of his forays forward.
With Ozek’s goal, Turkey grew in confidence but Ireland still created plenty of chances. Whether it was on the right or the left, McGeady got the better of his opposite number and when he skinned Caner Erkin in the 26th minute, McClean should have at least hit the target with a header from eight yards.
The two combined again 10 minutes later to force an excellent reflex save from Kivrak, McClean darting clear to meet McGeady’s cross sweetly at the near post.
It’s standard procedure for managers to empty the bench in these friendlies, but with plenty of games still to come, O’Neill kept his powder dry and gave his starting 11 a chance to play themselves back into the game at the start of the second half.
He waited until the 66th minute to introduce Meyler, Walters and Daryl Murphy and they were instrumental in Ireland’s revival. Meyler added some useful attacking impetus, and very nearly scored with his first touch, while Walters came off the bench like a man determined to prove a point.
Before he could do that, Camdal had put the game out of reach on 75 minutes. Wilson dropped a little too deep, playing Turkey’s sub onside, and his finish left Elliot with no chance.
Walters made sure that he would have his say nonetheless and responded superbly two minutes later, taking Hoolahan’s long pass on his chest without breaking stride and turning back inside a leggy Toprak before firing past Kivrak.
It looked as though Ireland might press on in those final minutes and snatch the draw their manager felt they deserved, but a tame header from Murphy aside, the chances never materialised.
Ireland: Elliot, Coleman, O’Shea (c), Delaney (Meyler 66), Ward, Wilson, Whelan (Quinn 82), McGeady (Walters 66), McClean, Hoolahan, Long (Murphy 66).Subs not used: Forde, Pearce, Kelly, Duffy, Clark, Green, Pilkington, Stokes, Cox.
Turkey: Kivrak, Gonul, Toprak, Balta, Erkin, Ozek (Camdal 70), Inan (Ozyakup 21), N Sahin (c, Dogan 84), Kisa (Tufan HT), Calhanoglu (Adin 63), Erdinc (Pektemek 81).Subs not used: Zengin, Babacan, Demirok, Potuk, Sahan, Buyuk, Karabalut, T Sahin.
Referee: Ruddy Buquet (France).