Irish international Stephen Kelly was upbeat despite Ireland losing to Spain 2-0 to second half goals from Soldado and Mata last Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
A crowd of 39,368 turned up to see the two teams in action, and the Reading defender thought the boys in black (for the night) did much to banish the memory of Ireland’s humiliating Euro 2012 defeat to the same team 12 months earlier in Gdansk, Poland.
“There were a lot of positives. I thought we played very well at times. They had a lot of possession. Overall we defended well, we kept our shape and we moved on from last summer,” Kelly told the Irish Voice after the game.
“The goals that we conceded were probably avoidable, maybe with a clearance we could have got in earlier. Overall I think it was a great workout and a good test. It was a hot evening out there, and the way they keep the ball makes it very tough. I think everybody put in a hell of a shift.”
Spain broke the deadlock in the 69th minute when Arbeloa juggled the ball on the edge of box before it fell to Soldado, who volleyed into the left hand corner of the net. However, rather than fold, Ireland continued to look for their own openings.
“A couple of chances could have gone our way, and Casillas pulled off two great saves,” added Kelly.
The first save came in the 80th minute when a great ball from Conor Sammon put James McClean through on goal, but his shot was turned over the bar by the Real Madrid goalkeeper.
The resulting corner saw a header from Kelly himself pushed on to the bar brilliantly by Casillas. The ensuing scramble resulted in Sean St. Ledger sliding in to score, but the goal was disallowed because Simon Cox was correctly ruled offside.
“I thought I had scored my first goal for Ireland, and I was wheeling off thinking this was it, but he palmed it on to the crossbar. It was disappointing in that sense, but if we had got a goal it would have been one-all, and we would have been back in the game,” Kelly said.
“But it was a tough test. We were playing the world champions and they are going to be number one contender for the World Cup next year.”
The gulf in class was again evident in the 88th minute when a wonderful series of Spanish passes saw Cazorla put Mata through, and the Chelsea man was able to slip the ball past Darren Randolph into the Irish net.
Kelly said that Irish manager Giovanni Trapattoni was also accentuating the positives from the Irish performance after the final whistle.
“He was just saying well done. It was disappointing not to come away with something, but well done and we worked hard and we showed we moved on from the summer. We were compact, and we restricted them to less chances.”
The team now goes on summer break before reconvening for two make or break World Cup qualifying games in the fall, at home to Sweden on September 6 and away to Austria four days later.