Maloney delivers a moment of magic to settle drab derby
“It’s a disappointment but it’s far from failure,” Ireland boss Martin O’Neill said afterwards.

Shaun Maloney celebrates scoring their first goal Donall Farmer / INPHO Maloney's goal sent Celtic Park wild. Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

Scotland 1-0 Ireland

IN A GAME that was high on tension but short on quality, Shaun Maloney delivered a moment worth savouring.

For the Scotland fans at least.

With the help of Ikechi Anya, Scott Brown and a cleverly-executed set piece, Maloney struck the only goal at Celtic Park and handed Ireland their first competitive defeat of Martin O’Neill’s reign.

The defeat leaves Ireland fourth in Group D, three points behind leaders Poland and behind Germany and Scotland on goal difference alone.

“It’s a disappointment but it’s far from failure,” O’Neill said afterwards.

The biggest talking point before kick-off was his decision to drop Robbie Keane and start Shane Long in his place. By the time he was introduced 12 minutes from time, Ireland were scrambling for the late goal that has already been their crutch twice in this campaign.

It never materialised, their best chance coming in stoppage time when the ball deflected off a Scottish head and onto the crossbar.

The Ireland team huddle James Crombie / INPHO Ireland lined up without Robbie Keane for a first competitive game since 2001. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

While the focus was on Ireland’s leading goalscorer, it was the absence of Glenn Whelan and James McCarthy in midfield that seemed to hurt Ireland most. Their replacements, Darron Gibson and Jeff Hendrick, never got to grips with a scrappy midfield battle and were outmatched by the impressive Charlie Mulgrew and his partner Scott Brown.

There were few clear chances in the first half, though both sides were lucky to make it to the break with 11 men. Grant Hanley was shown yellow for bringing down Long as he tried to run in on goal, and later led with his forearm in an aerial clash with David Forde.

Ireland were no angels either in a fiery first half, soundtracked by boos every time Aiden McGeady touched the ball. He was booked, as was Hendrick, and at times Ireland looked desperate for the half-time whistle.

Scott Brown, Steven Naismith and Charlie Mulgrew confront Richard Keogh after he collided with goalkeeper David Marshall James Crombie / INPHO Scott Brown, Steven Naismith and Charlie Mulgrew confront Richard Keogh after he collided with goalkeeper David Marshall. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

The visitors had the best chances early on after the restart. Long flashed a header from six yards out but David Marshall was equal to it. The Scottish keeper was called into action again shortly before the hour mark to tip McGeady’s shot around the post.

O’Neill shook things up with the introduction of Stephen Quinn and Robbie Brady for the final 22 minutes, and the latter’s dangerous deliveries were the platform for Ireland’s best chances.

It was a set piece at the other end that decided matters however. Maloney and Anya took a short corner while Brown drifted away from the Irish defenders in the box. His flick was perfectly weighted, Maloney’s curling finish sublime.

Scotland: Marshall, Whittaker, R Martin, Hanley, Robertson, Mulgrew, Brown, Maloney, Naismith, Anya (D Fletcher 88), S Fletcher (C Martin 56).

Ireland: Forde, Coleman, O’Shea, Keogh, Ward, Gibson (Quinn 68), Hendrick (Keane 78), McGeady, McClean, Walters, Long (Brady 68).

Referee: Milorad Mazic (Serbia)

Occasion may have got the better of McGeady and others as luck runs out for O’Neill

This fine Shaun Maloney finish gave Scotland all three points against Ireland

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