Winning Start for Trapattoni

Georgia 1

Ireland 2

GIOVANNI Trapattoni managerial curve started on a good note with a valuable away win to kick-start Ireland's Group Eight World Cup adventure.

Away wins have always been hard work for Irish teams and although this game was switched from Georgia to Germany for security reasons collecting all three points on the road was a creditable opener in the 2010 qualifiers.

Kevin Doyle and Glenn Whelan made the scoresheet, and while Whelan's 35-yard strike would go down as a goalkeeping error Doyle's 13th minute finish was a neat goal of real quality.

Steven Reid, who passed the ball beautifully all night, set Robbie Keane free on the right. Aiden McGeady provided the overlap and his crisp delivery was nodded home by Doyle from five yards.

From there the game continued as it started, the Georgians strangely dispirited for a team that might have drawn motivation from serious problems at home. Instead the game was played before less than 5,000 supporters at a neutral venue in Mainz in a hollow atmosphere that sometimes resembled a practice match.

Ireland bossed midfield, with Reid and Whelan dominating the centre and McGeady threatening to make a long-awaited impact down the flanks.

Doyle was busy as ever, and although Keane and Stephen Hunt were less effective Ireland looked very comfortable.

A second goal might have really turned up the heat. Two minutes after scoring Doyle won a free outside the box. Hunt clipped in a cross that Georgi Loria flapped at. Whelan met the loose ball with a well-struck drive that was parried and Richard Dunne drove the rebound back across a crowded area.

Just before the half-hour Hunt won another free. Reid unleashed a piledriver that Loria did well to stop, and with Doyle threatening to make it two, the ball was literally taken off his head and hacked away to safety.

Georgia had yet to mount a serious attack, yet they should have been level after 35 minutes. They won their first corner. Levan Kenia, a 17-year-old prospect, sent in a fine cross and Iashvili, unmarked on the six-yard box, headed over the bar when cleaner contact would certainly have yielded a goal.

It was a warning that Ireland's slender lead would not be enough over 90 minutes play. They remained in control, but Georgia worked themselves back into it without creating a second scoring chance. Whelan got through a lot of work in the center, and considering he isn't even a starter at club level in Stoke City it was a notable display. Steve Finnan, whose drudgery at Liverpool has finally ended with a transfer to Espanyol, was also sharp at full-back but Ireland were unable to raise their tempo up another gear.

Five minutes after the restart John O'Shea repeated Iashvili's miss when he found himself unmarked from McGeady's corner. It was a dreadful header but it might have been forgotten six minutes later. Georgian captain Kaladze left his 'keeper short with a very casual backpass. Keane raced onto it, carried the ball around Loria but his angled shot came back off the upright. McGeady then drove the loose ball narrowly past the other post.

Georgia took heart from the let-off and began to string some passes together. A Kenia free kick had Dunne scrambling at the back post, content to concede a corner.

With the Georgians enjoying a good spell Ireland broke with a fine move that was flattered by a soft goal. McGeady carried the ball from his own area and released Keane out the left with a lovely lofted pass.

Kevin Kilbane, wearing a face mask to protect a recently fractured cheekbone, stitched the ball through to Reid and when Whelan ran into space he let fly from over 30 yards. The ball dipped in front of Loria and spun into the net.

The 21-year-old goalkeeper could only hold his head in dismay but Whelan deserved his moment as fair return for sheer endeavor. It was the midfielder's first international goal.

The game could have petered out but Georgia mustered a couple of half-chances. Liam Miller replaced Doyle and Paul McShane came in at full-back for Finnan.

The only blot on Trapattoni's plan came in the 90th minute when Kenia was allowed turn inside the box before shooting past Shay Given from close range. It was a goal that should never have been conceded, and the Irish defense will need to tighten up against better opposition in Podgorica on Wednesday night.

Montenegro will pose a stiffer test than Georgia, especially in front of a home crowd, but an away win with an honest, workmanlike performance this was a good start for Ireland.

"We knew today would be difficult," Trapattoni said. "The first game in World Cup qualifying is always difficult so the win is a success and very important.

"We deserved to win. It's a pity that in the last minute we conceded a goal because it's important to keep a clean sheet but today I must be happy because I saw some good things in our mentality.

"All the players worked for the result and they are happy in dressing room. They were happy for they now believe."

Given was also happy with the result even if that late goal hurt his feelings.

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