31.05.2014 at 19:45 Craven Cottage
Republic of Ireland
0 - 0
Referee: Michael Oliver
Republic of Ireland 0 Italy 0
The Republic of Ireland played out an entertaining scoreless with World Cup bound Italy at Craven Cottage in their second of four end-of-season friendlies.
In an end-to-end contest played before 22,879 fans, Ireland mustered the pick of the chances with Stephen Quinn’s late rocket which struck the crossbar the closest they came to securing victory.
Ireland manager Martin O’Neill made four changes to the side beaten 2-1 by Turkey last Sunday, with Alex Pearce, David Meyler, Anthony Pilkington and Jeff Hendrick earning starts.
Reading defender Pearce was kept particularly active for the opening 20 minutes as the Azzurri zipped the ball around with pace to create gaps in the Irish defence.
Ciri Immobile almost profited as early as the fourth minute when Marco Verratti teed up the striker in the box but he allowed the ball slip from his control and into the hands of David Forde.
The Irish goalkeeper was forced into his first save of the night a minute later as Claudio Marchisio surged from deep before smashing a high shot which Forde turned the post.
His opposite number, Salvatore Sirigu, was also called into action on 21 minutes after the Irish had weathered the early pressure.
From a free-kick won by Hendrick 20 yards out, Pilkington speared the drive over the wall and the Italian ‘keeper could only spill the dipping effort away to safety.
Chances were traded at each end as the contest opened up. The onrushing Giuseppe Rossi flashed his shot past the far post while David Meyler stung the palms of Sirigu.
Ireland then enjoyed their best spell around the half hour mark with the Italians on the back foot.
Firstly, Hendrick drilled narrowly wide of the near post and Stephen Ward’s teasing delivery across the six-yard box failed to get any connection from a team-mate.
Most clear-cut of all, though, was the opening conjured by Aiden McGeady’s dash to the end-line. His lofted cross to the far post was met by Shane Long whose header was punched away by Sirigu.
Still, Cesare Prandelli’s side still had time before the break to give O’Neill’s Irish another scare when Ciro Immobile ghosted into the box behind Pearce only to miscontrol the ball with the goal at his mercy.
The tempo didn’t relent following the resumption. Within the opening five minutes, Long’s shot was blocked after Wes Hoolahan released him into space and Pilkington cut inside and missed the target by a yard.
England’s opponents in the World Cup did have the ball in the net on 56 minutes, yet Immobile was adjudged to be offside when he tapped into an empty net.
O’Neill utilised his bench as the half progressed and two of the substitutes combined 10 minutes from the finish to fashion Ireland’s nearest chance of nicking the win. McClean’s left wing cross fell to Stephen Quinn, whose first-time shot rattled the underside of the crossbar. McGeady’s connected with the rebound but was denied by Sirigu.
Ireland: Forde; Coleman, O’Shea, Pearce, Ward; Meyler (Green 85), Hendrick; Pilkington (McClean 58), Hoolahan (Quinn 67), McGeady; Long (Cox 73).
Italy: Sirigu; Paletta, Motta (De Rossi 61), Darmian (Abate 88); De Sciglio, Verratti, Montolivo (Aquilani 16 [Parolo 38]), Bonucci, Marchisio; Rossi (Cerci 70); Immobile (Cassano 57).
Italy were held to a 0-0 draw by the Republic of Ireland at Craven Cottage in a game which saw Riccardo Montolivo stretchered off in the first half.
AC Milan midfielder Montolivo, who was Italy's captain on the night, was hurt in a 15th minute challenge with Ireland defender Alex Pearce.
Early reports suggest Montolivo could now miss the World Cup as Italy's preparations continued with this stalemate against an Ireland side beaten 2-1 by Turkey in Dublin last weekend.
Italy, who started with Giuseppe Rossi up front as the Fiorentina striker sought to prove his fitness following a knee injury, dominated possession early on and had the first chance in the fifth minute.
Ireland goalkeeper David Forde had to fully stretch to clear Claudio Marchisio's powerful 30-yard effort towards the far post.
Prandelli was forced to make his first substitution in the 15th minute with Alberto Aquilani replacing the injured Montolivo, who hurt his left leg after a challenge with Pearce.
Ireland created their first chance in the 21st minute with Anthony Pilkington's curled free-kick kept out by Italy goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu.
A minute later, Torino defender Matteo Darmian, who was making his senior debut with the Azzurri, came close to breaking the deadlock but his diagonal effort went just wide.
Ireland continued to press forward and David Meyler's stinging drive from outside the area forced Sirigu to palm the ball over the bar.
In the 33rd minute, Sirigu made a superb save to clear Shane Long's close-range header from Aiden McGeady's cross from the left.
Prandelli made his second substitution before half-time with Marco Parolo replacing the injured Aquilani.
Ireland picked up where it left off after the re-start and twice had opportunities to score early in the second half.
Hoolahan fed Long in the box but his right-footed strike was saved by Sirigu. Seconds later, Pilkington's curled attempt flew inches wide.
Italy thought they had taken the lead in the 56th minute when Ciro Immobile got behind Parolo's pass and struck the ball past Forde only to see his goal disallowed for offside.
Prandelli brought on Antonio Cassano before the hour mark in the hope the Parma forward could make the difference.
In the 65th minute, Cassano spotted an unmarked Marchisio in the area and the Juventus midfielder wasted a great chance as he struck the ball straight at the keeper.
With 12 minutes remaining, Ireland came close to being rewarded for their efforts when James McClean's cross found substitute Stephen Quinn in the box and his right-footed shot hit the bar with Sirigu already beaten.
Italy pressed forward more aggressively in the last stages of the game but could not find the finishing touch and held on for a draw.