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Dublin: 14°C Friday 23 April 2021


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Ireland 0-0 Italy (FT) 

Hello, and welcome to our liveblog of Italy v Ireland live from Craven Cottage.

We’ll have the team news for you momentarily.

Here’s the starting line-up…

Ireland: Forde, Coleman, O’Shea, Pearce, Ward, McGeady, Hendrick, Meyler, Pilkington, Hoolahan, Long.

What do you make of it?

And here’s the Italy team for those interested…

Italy: 31. Sirigu. 24. Darmian 29. Paletta 19. Bonucci 4. De Sciglio 5. Motta 30. Verratti 18. Montolivo 8. Marchisio 17. Immobile 22. Rossi.

Some sage advice from the fine folk at Craven Cottage…

A general view of Craven Cottage ahead of the game Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

So far, the only similarity to that famous 1994 World Cup clash is that one group of supporters appears to be easily outnumbering the other.

However, this time, it’s the Italians who have the far more vocal support.

The cheer to greet the Italians in the warm-up was conspicuously louder than the equivalent noise for the Irish team.

Roy Keane is in the building (as are Steve Guppy and Steve Walford).

Roy Keane with Steve Guppy and Steve Walford Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

So how do you see this game going?

Poll Results:

Draw (1039)
Italy win (574)
Ireland win (359)

As the crowd gets bigger, the Italian support is becoming so overwhelming that this has effectively turned into an away game for Ireland.

The teams have emerged and are lined out for the national anthems…

We’re underway…

Good start from Italy early on as they win a corner following a swift counter attack, as Ward is caught ball-watching and allows the opposition full-back to steal a march on him.

There are calls for a penalty thereafter, as a volley from a corner appears to hit an Irish defender’s hand but the referee waves it away.

Great save from Forde to stop a Marchisio shot.

Seconds before, Immobile beat the offside trap, but failed to take the ball in his stride, allowing the goalkeeper to gather it.

Ireland look a mess at the back so far.

There’s a brief stoppage as Montolivo is receiving treatment.

Ireland will be relieved to get a breather.

Good work from Hoolahan and McGeady down the right as Ireland win a corner.

McGeady’s ball into the box finds Pilkington, who sweeps it straight into the keeper’s arms.

It’s been a lively opening 12 minutes.

Montolivo has had to go off injured, so Alberto Aquilani, who Liverpool fans will have less-than-fond memories of, comes on in his place.

Montolivo is rumoured to have said he broke his angle while he was down.

That would be his World Cup dream over if so, following a robust challenge from Alex Pearce.

Controversial… The ref fails to wave play on and awards Ireland a free-kick, with Shane Long being taken down in the box by the goalkeeper seconds later.

Pilkington’s subsequent free is well parried away by Sirigu, as the Ireland fans come to life.

Italy counter swiftly and Darmian, who’s looked dangerous so far, hits a shot just wide.

Italy are using their attacking full-backs well, and Ireland need to take greater care down the flanks to curb this threat.

Good sustained passing from Ireland ends with Meyler’s shot being tipped over by the keeper.

McGeady makes a mess of the short corner though, and concedes a free — still more encouraging play from the Boys in Green (or ‘black’ tonight) though.

Great skill from Pilkington to get away from two players before his eventual shot is blocked.

Shane Long then brushes off his marker and wins a corner.

Hendrick shoots just wide from the ensuing corner.

This is a good spell for Ireland with half-time still 15 minutes away.

Pilkington narrowly fails to connect properly with a dangerous cross.

Ireland have Italy on the ropes now.

Great work from McGeady down the left. His cross finds Long, whose header is parried away by the goalkeeper.

The Hull striker will be disappointed not to have scored there.

The substitute has been substituted, as Aquilani is replaced by Parolo.

Many Liverpool fans are probably smiling wryly right now.

A long ball is played through to Immobile, who can’t quite control it as it runs out of play.

Italy are coming back into it now with five minutes until half-time.

Meyler plays it to Hendrick on the edge of the area, before the Derby midfielder slices it wildly wide.

Provided they don’t concede in the next minute or two, Ireland can be relatively happy with their first-half display.

As I type, Immobile goes through on goal, but Forde bravely dives down to smother the ball.

Of course, there will be five minutes of stoppage time owing to that injury to Montolivo.

Wes Hoolahan has just audaciously tried to lob the goalkeeper from the halfway line, but his effort unfortunately goes just wide.

That followed a long spell of Italian possession, yet they failed to do much with the ball during that period.


Some reaction from the Twitterati…

So half-time, and this game has not been as uneven as some may have feared.

Italy have only been slightly the better team, while Ireland probably had the best chance of the game with that Long header.

Meyler, McGeady, Hendrick, Hoolahan and Pilkington have all looked good at times, while save for the chaotic opening few minutes, O’Neill’s men have looked fairly solid at the back.

Italy have kept possession well and threatened at times, with their full-backs in particular causing Ireland problems in attack.

However, they failed to build on their dominant opening, and it seemed as if the whole team suffered for a period after their captain Montolivo went off injured.

Jeff Hendrick and and Thiago Motta Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

(Derby’s Jeff Hendrick has impressed in midfield for Ireland.)

The second half is underway…

Great start to the second half for Ireland. Long is put through, but his shot is well saved.

Pilkington then shoots just wide seconds later.

This certainly doesn’t have an end-of-season friendly feel.

Italy have the ball in the net but it’s ruled out for offside. Like the linesman, I don’t have the benefit of a replay unfortunately.

The second half has been just as entertaining as the first so far.

Meanwhile, amid all that, Cassano has replaced Immobile for Italy.

That disallowed goal was Immobile’s last act.

Meanwhile, Ireland make their first change, with McClean replacing Pilkington.

Bonucci heads just over from a corner as the Italian pressure intensifies.

De Rossi, who always seems to be linked with the likes of United, has just come on for Motta.

Darmian goes close again, but his shot is deflected away from goal.

Italy are well on top now.

Coleman gets absolutely taken out after he wins possession well. The ref plays advantage and then McGeady skies a shot well over.

Marchisio subsquently produces a tame shot that’s comfortably saved by Forde following a swift Italian counter.

Stephen Quinn has also just come on for the impressive but tired-looking Wes Hoolahan.

Italy make another change, as Cerci replaces Rossi in attack.

20 minutes remain for either side to win it.

Great tackle from O’Shea to stop Parolo from going through on goal.

The Sunderland skipper has played well tonight.

Meanwhile, Long’s night of tireless running has come to an end, as he’s replaced by Simon Cox.

Great interception from Alex Pearce, before the follow-up shot finds the side-netting, as Ireland live dangerously.

Tonight’s attendance is 22,879 according to the official announcer.

Stephen Quinn hits the underside of the crossbar, following McClean’s ball in.

McGeady’s follow-up shot is then well saved.

The atmosphere tonight is pretty special, as the defiant chant of ‘Italia’ rings out.

Just after Ireland’s near miss, Italy again had the ball in the net and again, it was ruled out for offside.

This is the most entertaining Ireland friendly I’ve seen in years.

Cerci drits away from Ward at the far post, before heading it to Marchiso, who blasts a volley well over.

Just over five minutes remain…

David Meyler, who’s looked impressive tonight, comes off for Paul Green.

Meyler and Hendrick have operated in a similar manner to Barry and McCarthy at Everton, protecting the back four and letting others worry about the attacking side of things.

Darmian, who’s looked very dangerous at full-back, is replaced by Abate.

Looks like this most entertaining of games will, somewhat ironically, end scoreless.

Three minutes of added time to be played and Italy have a corner…

The header goes just wide for another corner, before Cerci blasts a shot well wide as Italy go short.


Right, that’s it from me. Thanks for reading and commenting.

We’ll have more reaction and analysis to follow.

About the author:

Paul Fennessy