A game of two halves

Scotland travelled to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin yesterday evening aiming to keep their Euro 2016 campaign alive.  Thankfully it still is, but by no means was the match against the Republic of Ireland a thrill to watch.

The Irish came out of the blocks quickest and pressed the Scottish defence early. This unsettled Gordon Strachan’s players and they struggled to put together sufficient attacking moves.

Martin O’Neill’s message was obvious: go out and hit Scotland hard. And they did, but it wasn’t all with finesse.

In truth there were a couple of Ireland players who, given their antics, wouldn’t have looked out of place in a hurling match. No red cards were issued but if the game had gone on any longer there are two or three Irish players that could have walked.

Strong arm tactics were part of the O’Neill game plan. And they were effective for 45 minutes at least.

Ireland took the lead on 38 minutes after a header from a corner ball was parried by David Marshall. The ball fell to the waiting Jon Walters to tap in from close range.

He was clearly in an offside position, but not one official spotted the infringement. There was a very good view of the incident so why it was missed is unacceptable.

The Irish may have deserved the lead but the goal was not legitimate. Something the Republic of Ireland team and FAI have first hand knowledge of as well as FIFA payment to go with it.

Will Scotland get five million from UEFA? I doubt it.

Scotland dealt with the blow by coming out of the traps in the second half. After being almost completely absent for the first half, Scotland drew level two minutes after the restart.

The goal was carved out by the match winner from the previous encounter with Ireland, Shaun Maloney. However, a deflection en route to the net meant it was awarded as an own goal by John O’Shea.

Back in the game and a positive start, Scotland soldiered on. They finally had a chip in the game but it didn’t kick on to more goals or a better contest.

Chances came and went for both sides, more elbows and arms were being administered by Ireland. Scotland stood firmer and got more attacks and the Irish got more frustrated but the game was fading out.

This could have been a better result for Ireland and a worse one for Scotland. Given the balance of play and the poorly officiated incidents, I’d say this was a fair result.

So no change in the Group D placings. Poland took down Georgia 4-0 and Germany marched all over Gibraltar by putting seven past them.

The British Overseas Territory have now conceded 34 goals in six games and that will undoubtedly increase to around the 50 mark by the end of the group phase if they’re not careful. The only goal they’ve managed so far came against Scotland.

It’s a nice touch to be such a charitable nation but I’d prefer it we didn’t allow that to happen again. Hopefully the Gibraltarians will manage to score against someone else before the qualifiers are over and not make us look so bad!

Scotland now have four fixtures after the summer. Two in September and two in October.

It’s good to know that at this stage of qualifying, Scotland remain in a good position. Not the best of games in Ireland, but we’re still in the hunt.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie

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