There are few problems in football that can't be solved by a dodgy keeper between the opposition's posts. Ireland might have started last night's game here with a patchwork side, and finished it in a mood of panic as they tried to cling on for victory following a poor second-half performance, but the home side's weaknesses mattered little thanks to Edin Nuredinoski, Macedonia's hapless goalkeeper.
The 28-year-old plies his trade with Cypriot outfit Ethnikos Achna and his teammates may have wished he was still soaking up the sun rather than exposing his weaknesses on a bitterly cold Dublin night. The match was just 84 seconds old when Nuredinoski was guilty of his first cock-up.
Aiden McGeady may well insist his purposeful incision from the left flank and well-struck shot from 20 yards merited a goal but the keeper really should have touched the winger's shot around his right-hand post rather than allow it to skip through his hands.
The man in the fluorescent orange shirt – not a good look if you want to avoid drawing attention to yourself – was similarly culpable for Ireland's second goal on 21 minutes when he allowed Darron Gibson's 25-yard free-kick to cannon off his chest and into the path of Robbie Keane, who showed his predatory instinct of old to force the ball home.
There were many more examples of Nuredinoski's quirks over the course of the 90 minutes – the post-match analysis in the Macedonian camp won't be pretty – but his performance merely served to cloud judgement on the efforts of Giovanni Trapattoni's side, who now sit atop Group B with Russia and Slovakia, with all three teams tied on 10 points.
Until a minute before the interval Ireland appeared comfortable with Damien Duff and McGeady causing all sorts of bother on the flanks. Shane Long – a replacement for Kevin Doyle, who hobbled off with a medial ligament injury that could keep him out up to two months – should have made it three on 26 minutes.
But once the impressive IvanTrickovski made a mug of Richard Dunne inside the box and calmly slipped the ball past Kieren Westwood on 45 minutes, Ireland became fallible. Passes began to go astray with alarming frequency and gaps appeared all over the place.
Goran Pandev, the one recognisable face among the visitors, skewed a decent chance early in the second half, while Westwood had to save brilliantly with his legs when Trickovski was put clear.
"I had complete trust in Westwood," said Trapattoni, who proclaimed himself satisfied with both the three points and his side's display. The sentiment, predictably, wasn't echoed by his Macedonian counterpart. "Mistakes cost us," said Mirsad Jonuz. "I didn't single out our goalkeeper at half-time but there is no doubt that his mistakes directed the result."
Referee: Istvan Vad (Hungary)
Man of the match: Damien Duff
Match rating: 6/10Reuse content