Germany 1 Republic of Ireland 0: Luck deserts Irish as Staunton is banished to stand

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The Independent Football

Steve Staunton's first competitive game in charge of the Republic of Ireland ended in defeat and dismissal to the stands. A deflected strike from Lukas Podolski off the heel of the unfortunate captain Robbie Keane was all that divided the teams in the opening Euro 2008 Group D qualifier here.

Staunton's night ended in further misery when he was sent off 15 minutes from time by the Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo after complaining once too often regarding a challenge that went against his side.

The atmosphere inside the stadium was reminiscent of those generated at Germany's home games in the World Cup, aided by the massed ranks of Irish fans. Their team almost silenced the home fans after just 80 seconds. The Liverpool right-back Steve Finnan curled a cross into the heart of the area where Keane headed narrowly wide.

Germany then increased the pace and almost scored after 25 minutes, Bastian Schweinsteiger setting up Michael Ballack just outside the area. The Chelsea midfielder took one step forward before unleashing a drive that took a deflection off Richard Dunne and finished a yard wide of Shay Given's left-hand post.

Then the Newcastle goalkeeper came into his own, pulling off two world-class saves in successive minutes. From the first chance, Ballack drilled a right-wing ball across the area for Schweinsteiger to nod back into the path of Miroslav Klose. The goalbound header by the leading scorer at the World Cup was brilliantly clawed away by Given. That was swiftly followed by Given acrobatically pushing a rising drive from Podolski over the crossbar.

With Ireland pegged back, two more chances followed. Ballack had plenty of space but headed woefully wide from 10 yards, and then Podolski dragged a shot past the left-hand post from a similar distance.

With the German fans turning up the volume again at the start of the second period, they were nearly treated to the opener inside two minutes. Schweinsteiger's piercing corner picked out Podolski who was allowed to rise unchallenged, only to plant a 12-yard header inches over the crossbar.

Then it was Ireland's turn to go close. From 25 yards, Steven Reid bent a free-kick around the wall, Jens Lehmann fumbled and Arne Friedrich cleared as Keane closed in on the rebound.

Following a booking for Reid for a foul on Torsten Frings, Germany then took the lead in the 57th minute, with Andy O'Brien and Dunne penalised for sandwiching Klose. From three yards outside the area, Bernd Schneider and Klose set up Podolski for a drive that ricocheted off the heel of Keane, the ball creeping inside Given's left-hand post and beyond his dive.

Then in the space of two minutes a full-stretch Dunne twice cleared from Schneider, while Klose hit the bar with a header following a right-wing cross from Philipp Lahm.

Staunton may have to watch the next qualifier from the stands following his sending-off. "I kick every ball and head every ball during the game and this time I just kicked a bottle, it's as simple as that," he said. "This showed how cruel the game can be. Just look at the goal, it was going well wide and took a cruel deflection."

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