Tuesday 12 December 2017

'Outplayed and overwhelmed'

McGeady wants relief from Russian 'headache' in Zilina

BEFORE KICK-OFF, the biggest headache for Ireland's midfield was getting to grips with the spelling and pronunciation of their opposite numbers in the middle of the park, all those zeds and ys and ovs.

Fifty minutes after the first whistle was blown last night, those same Irish heads were spinning at the pace, space and ability of that supremely gifted three-man Russian midfield of Denisov, Shirovok and Zyryanov.

And Aiden McGeady, on a night when he desperately wanted to impress against the nation which is now his permanent home since his move to Spartak Moscow, admits that the Russian formation was simply a "headache", which the home side in Dublin were unable to cope with.

"We are not used to being outplayed at home but I think Russia saw the way we play and they acted on it," said McGeady after the 3-2 defeat.

"They played 4-3-3, we were a rigid 4-4-2, they put out their formation brilliantly, their wide players came inside, their front man pushed on, we had no one to pick up as their midfielders were too deep.

"They had three players in the middle of the park and the formation was a headache for us to deal with. They had just too much time on the ball in the first half. One pass and they were right back in at our centre halves again.

"It's one thing about Ireland, we are not used to conceding goals.

"But Russia cut us open a few times at the back last night. We were 3-0 down, we came back to 3-2 and could have got a draw.

"We had chances to get a third goal but the ball just didn't fall for our players. We had corners and the ball was in the box, but it didn't fall for us and that was frustrating.

"The consolation is that Ireland are still top of the group, and we have another game to look forward to in Slovakia next week.


"The group is wide open now. Slovakia lost last night so if we win on Tuesday in Slovakia, we are right back in it.

"On the basis of our performance in the last half-hour maybe a draw would have been suitable and feasible, but Russia were very good in the first half," admitted McGeady.

The 24-year-old was a constant threat to the Russians last night, especially when Ireland changed things around in the second half and switched formation to try and steal something back from the game, a change from the 4-4-2 which is such a concrete belief of Giovanni Trapattoni that it's hard to imagine him ever playing any other way.

"The manager wanted Shane Long to come on and play on the left, but five minutes later he didn't so he changed us back over. Then, when he changed to 4-4-3, he played me in behind Robbie Keane," McGeady said.

"When we went to 4-3-3 and started crowding midfield a bit, that's when we started to get a bit of joy and started to look like a match for the Russians, it was a level playing field. Maybe it could have been done a bit sooner, but it certainly helped us."

The former Celtic man reached the 35-cap mark in Dublin last night but it was a disappointing night on a personal and squad level.

The concession of three European Championship points hurt everyone in the home side but there was a special eye from the away fans and media on McGeady due to his status as a Russian league player.

"I just want to play well and win every game I play in, it's not about what club you play for it's about your country. I just wanted Ireland to win tonight and it's unfortunate that we didn't get a point," McGeady said on an evening when, bizarrely, he was the only man from Spartak Moscow to participate in a game involving Russia.

"I am disappointed personally but it's no big deal for me to go back to Russia with a defeat.

"It was a narrow defeat, it's not as if we had lost 3-0. If we had lost 3-0 I think I'd feel different going back to Russia next week."

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