Ireland defeated Germany on Thursday night to keep themselves in contention for automatic qualification for France 2016. Shane Long’s second-half strike gave Ireland their most impressive home competitive victory since McAteer stuck the ball in the Dutch net in 2001.
Germany’s last visit to Dublin had seen them score six, and they were expected to dominate possession at Lansdowne Road. Within ninety seconds gone a blocked Thomas Muller effort had given Germany their first corner of the night.
Marco Reus won another corner in the eight minute, as his attempted half-volley was blocked. Toni Kroos’s cross picked out the unmarked Jerome Boateng, but Germany’s first guilt-edged chance of the night sailed harmlessly over the crossbar.
With thirteen minutes on the clock Germany were at it again. An attack up the left flank saw the ball pulled back for Ilkay Gundogan, but he also cleared the crossbar from all of twelve yards.
Richard Keogh had to be alert with two minutes later. He did superbly well to slide in and clear a cross with Mesut Ozil ready to pounce. Ozil had it in the net four minutes later but his tap in, from another cross, was correctly ruled out for offside.
Ireland were putting together sporadic passages of play, always under huge pressure from the Germans, and their only chance in these early stages fell to Jon Walters. Cyrus Christie did well out right before crossing low for the Stoke striker. He couldn’t quite adjust himself to get anything on the ball however and the chance was lost.
Ireland started the second-half with the same defensive cohesion that had served them so well in the final twenty minutes of the first. Germany’s first shot, in the fifty-first minute, had all the hallmarks of frustration as Andre Schurrle eventually elected to shoot when his side couldn’t find the gaps in the Irish defence. He smashed the ball over the bar, from the edge of box, to loud cheers from the Lansdowne faithful.
Five minutes later Germany broke quickly following an Irish free-kick. Reus crossed for Schurrle, but his effort from ten yards cleared the crossbar once more.
With twenty-five minutes to go, Long was introduced. The stage was set.
It took him six minutes. Darren Randolph went direct. His long kick floated in behind the German cover, and Long took a super touch, without slowing down even a fraction. He took it inside the box and blasted it across Manuel Neuer in the German goal. Suddenly, with their third effort on target, Ireland were one up. They’ll be talking about that goal for years to come.
But of course there was still twenty minutes to be played, and the world champions weren’t going to go down without a fight. They were nearly level within ninety seconds as Mats Hummels header across goal was just wide to the left of Randolph’s goal. Reus was similarly inaccurate with a shot a few moments later, and when Muller missed from fourteen yards with seventy-eight minutes on the clock, that feeling at half-time of it being Ireland’s night had become all pervasive.
Stoppage time saw Ireland frustrate the Germans further as a number of short corners between Jeff Hendrick and Walters wound down the clock. Four minutes of stoppage was finally brought to an end by Mr Carballo’s whistle, and the stadium rocked. The fans stayed in the stadium afterwards to savour the victory. This was, arguably, the return of the crowd to their rightful place as the twelfth man for this Irish side.
Author: Peter Branigan