Intercontinental Cup Group A
Republic of Ireland 0 Iraq 0
Don Givens’ Republic of Ireland team dominated today’s Under-23 Intercontinental Cup tournament Group A game against Iraq in Malaysia but couldn’t put the ball away.
The result means that Iraq will have to defeat tournament favourites Nigeria by a two-goal margin in Wednesday’s final match to deny Ireland a place in the semi-final. Nigeria and Malaysia played out a 1-1 draw in the other match contested in the pool today.
Ireland and Malaysia have concluded their group campaign with four points apiece but Ireland’s superior goal difference gives them the advantage over the hosts.
The Irish had won one and lost the other of their two previous group matches at the event and knew victory today would all but guarantee their passage into the semi-finals.
They went about their task with great enthusiasm but came up against an Iraqi side intent on frustrating Ireland by slowing down the game at every given opportunity.
Captain Stephen Ward set up the first chance on 20 minutes, releasing the onrushing Keith Treacy and though the Blackburn Rovers winger rode three challenges, he was unable to get power on his shot and Iraq goalkeeper Naser dealt with the threat.
Naser would go on to have an inspired game, thwarting Ireland on several occasions with a series of terrific saves.
Ward did have the custodian beaten five minutes before the break when he connected with a Billy Clarke cross but his header sailed fractionally wide of the post.
Ireland pressed for a goal in the second half but had to contend with consistent and needless stoppages to the game.
When they did find the openings, lady luck was again not on their side. Keith Treacys mazy dribble carved open the Iraq defence on 70 minutes and he found Billy Clarke with a cross that the Ipswich Town striker met on the half-volley only to see it rebound off the crossbar.
Ireland drove forward in numbers looking for that elusive goal and it almost cost them late on as Iraq conjured up a counter-attack with Kadhim’s 85th minute shot clipping the crossbar.
A clearly disappointed Ireland manager Don Givens said afterwards: “Our players had the right attitude and approach to the game in that they went out for the win. I could not fault them for that.
“However, the stop-start nature of the match meant we could never get a rhythm going and I hope our players never have to play a game like that again.”
Republic of Ireland Team:
Shane Redmond - Nottingham Forest
Eddie Nolan - Blackburn Rovers
Darren Dennehy - Everton
David Elebert – Hamilton Academicals
Shane Lowry - Aston Villa
James Ryan – Shrewsbury Town
James Berrett – Huddersfield Town
Michael Collins – Huddersfield Town
Keith Treacy - Blackburn Rovers
Billy Clarke - Ipswich Town
Stephen Ward - Wolverhampton Wanderers
Alan Judge - Blackburn Rovers for Berrett (67 mins)
Subs not used:
Stephen Maher - Yeovil Town
Mark Salmon - Wolverhampton Wanderers
Karl Moore - Manchester City
Michael Spillane - Norwich City
Paul Skinner - Celtic
Simon Madden - Leeds United
Irelands Results (Group A):
Thursday, May 15
Republic of Ireland 3-1 Malaysia
Malaysia, 9pm local time (2pm Irish time)
Saturday, May 17
Republic of Ireland 1-3 Nigeria
Malaysia, 6.30pm local time (11.30am Irish time)
Tuesday, May 19
Republic of Ireland 0-0 Iraq
Malaysia, 8.45pm local time (1.45pm Irish time).