Julio Cortez Mexico's Raul Jimenez celebrates after scoring a penalty kick.
# Report
Experimental Ireland side outclassed by Mexico in New Jersey
Birmingham’s Stephen Gleeson grabbed a second-half consolation for the Boys in Green.

Mexico 3
Ireland 1

Joe Callaghan reports from the MetLife Stadium

MARTIN O’NEILL INSISTED this week that he cares little for the result of international friendlies. Perhaps that’s no bad thing as his experimental Ireland side were comprehensively outclassed by a clinical Mexico at the MetLife Stadium on Thursday night.

The scoreline might not worry Ireland’s manager but the performance should. While there was of course room for trial and error here, some of the more pressing issues ahead of the crucial World Cup qualifying visit of Austria to Dublin next week remain unsettled.

Shane Duffy, at the heart of O’Neill’s new-look but ultimately much too shaky back three endured a particularly tough night against a smart, dynamic Mexican attack. Ireland were utterly shapeless in the first half with Daryl Murphy and David McGoldrick anonymous as isolated attackers.

Positives were hard found in the New Jersey night. Darren Randolph was sharpened up in the Ireland goal. There were two debutants and Stephen Gleeson’s late strike did put some respectability on the scoreline after Jesus Corona, Raul Jimenez and Carlos Vela had delighted the partisan Mexican support in the 42,017 crowd.

The return trip across the Atlantic will provide thinking time for O’Neill and Roy Keane. There’s a lot of it to be done.

Corona had given warning of what was to come as early as three minutes in when he cut in from the left to flash a shot wide. At the other end, a wicked McGoldrick cross evaded the stretching Murphy as Ireland found a little joy down the right.

A corner on 16 minutes offered the chance to turn the screw. Instead, Ireland unravelled. The ball was cleared and Jorge Hernandez seared into open terrain and fed Corona. Daryl Horgan, not knowing whether to come or sit ultimately did neither and Corona slalomed past the Preston man and Richard Keogh before firing in a fine opener.

As Ireland’s midfield struggled to find their feet, it was Cyrus Christie who offered an outlet. But on 25 minutes, O’Neill’s side were again in trouble.

Hernandez sent an arcing ball over the top of Ireland’s three-man backline to Carlos Vela and the former Arsenal striker got there just ahead of James McClean who nudged him over. Penalty. Yellow card. This was not how the captain had planned to ring in his half century of caps. Benfica’s Jimenez sent Darren Randolph the wrong way and much to the delight of the olé-ing masses Mexico were in total command.

The three at the back were struggling. The trio in front of them — Horgan, Conor Hourihane and Callum O’Dowda — were equally at sea. The contrast between the sides couldn’t have been more marked.

Mexico were purring, pinging passes through the middle and then out wide. Ireland simply couldn’t get the ball but then you weren’t confident they’d have been able to do anything with it if they could.

After another delightful move Gallardo danced through but pulled his effort wide. McClean raged at his defence.

There was brief light before the break when, after Hourihane had an effort deflected wide, an Ireland corner sparked a scramble and Shane Duffy bundled it over the line. The whistle had already gone for offside — it was that kind of half.

And yet O’Neill resisted the temptation to change things at half-time. Perhaps he thought stern words would spark change. They didn’t.

Nine minutes after the break, Mexico were three up. An O’Dowda deflection sent substitute Oribe Peralta clear and while Randolph did well to save his first effort, a simple centre found Vela free to tap in.

Duffy was almost caught out again soon after as Mexico threatened continually. Randolph did well to keep the scoreline down. O’Neill had seen enough and aborted his experiment soon after the hour. On came Burnley’s Kevin Long for an international debut along with Eunan O’Kane and Wes Hoolahan as Ireland switched to 4-5-1.

Ireland Mexico Soccer Julio Cortez Ireland's Stephen Gleeson (6) gestures after scoring a goal. Julio Cortez

Change wasn’t quite immediate but at least there was some semblance of shape to Ireland now. Alan Browne become the second debutant on 73 minutes when the Preston midfielder and Birmingham’s Stephen Gleeson joined the fray.

The latter grabbed some consolation just four minutes later when Hoolahan freed McClean and the captain’s whipped cross was fluffed by Oswaldo Alanis. Gleeson pounced and finished expertly for his first Ireland goal. Moments later, with Mexico now tiring, O’Dowda could have grabbed another after a mazy run.

At the death, McGoldrick wasted another fine McClean opening, but in truth Ireland didn’t deserve a second.

Ireland (3-5-2): Randolph, Keogh, Duffy, Egan; Christie, Horgan, Hourihane, O’Dowda, McClean; Murphy, McGoldrick.
Booked: McClean (25)

Subs: Long for Egan (64); O’Kane for Hourihane (64); Gleeson for Horgan (73); Hoolahan for Murphy (64); Browne for Christie (73).

Mexico (4-3-3): Cota; Salcedo, Moreno, Reyes, Gallardo; Dos Santos, Hernandez, Herrera; Jimenez, Vela, Corona.

Subs: Peralta for Herrera (ht); Layun for Salcedo (ht); Alanis for Moreno (ht); Aquino for Corona (58); Pineda for Dos Santos (58); Marquez for Vela (68).

Referee: Ted Unkel (USA)

Attendance: 42,017

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