Trapattoni resists urge to experiment
Republic of Ireland 1 Czech Republic 1
There's something to be said for sticking with what you know, but the Republic's manager Giovanni Trapattoni seems to have erred on the side of being a stick in the mud.
Simon Cox scored late on to cancel out the opener from Milan Baros, the former Liverpool striker. But it was a match from which Trapattoni learned little. Much of his first-choice side remained on the pitch until 20 minutes before the end – while James McClean, the feted Sunderland winger, had barely 10 minutes to shine on his debut.
All but two who started against the Czech Republic would be, fitness permitting, certain of a place in Ireland's first XI to face Croatia in their opening game in Poznan at Euro 2012.
While keeping a settled side may seem pragmatic, there have been loud calls for the Ireland manager to break out of his constraints and give the likes of Everton defender Shane Duffy or McClean the chance to show what they can do at international level.
But Trapattoni seems more concerned with the fact he has led the side on a run of 12 games unbeaten and lifted them up the Fifa rankings table than giving his squad players valuable international exposure.
"I am confident in the players I have," he said. "It is possible to change four or five players, but the ones I started with were doing well. It wasn't a case of needing to learn about James.
"It was a reward to him – and also, Damien Duff and Aiden McGeady were doing well so there was no need to change. He will play in the future. At the Euros? I don't know. There are always injuries before a tournament, so maybe.
"It is important for me to see the growth of the team and to see us do well. I am not surprised we had a good game," Trapattoni added.
One of the biggest cheers of the night came at half-time, when a woman surprised her boyfriend by taking advantage of leap year custom and proposing to him on the pitch as part of a local radio stunt (under no little pressure he said yes). But the feelgood factor was pricked by Baros five minutes after the restart as he capitalised on a defensive error to side-foot home from eight yards out.
McClean finally came on in the 79th minute to a cheer to surpass the one that greeted Martina Connolly, the woman who proposed. Then West Bromwich Albion's Cox sent the fans home happy by firing home from a tight angle with four minutes to go.
Republic of Ireland (4-4-1-1): Given; O'Shea, O'Dea, St Ledger, Ward; Duff (Green, 62), Andrews, Whelan (Hunt, 62), McGeady (McClean, 79); Keane (Walters, 70); Long (Cox, 70). Substitutes not used Forde, Foley, Duffy, Coleman, McCarthy, Henderson.
Czech Republic (4-3-3): Cech; Gebre Selassie (Rajtoral, 66), Limbersky, Sivok, Kadlec; Petrzela (Pilar, 66), Rezek (Pekhart, 87), Stajner (Lafata, 58); Plasil; Baros (Kolar, 58), Jiracek (Hubschman, h-t). Substitutes not used Drobny, Rajnoch, Pudil.
Referee M de Sousa (Portugal).
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