09.09.2003 at 19:30 Lansdowne Road
Republic of Ireland
2 - 2
Referee: J Wegereef (Holland)
Steven Reid -> Damien Duff (45)
Joe Murphy -> Nick Colgan (76)
Richard Dunne -> Andy O'Brien (76)
Stephen Mc Phail -> Colin Healy (86)
Clinton Morrison -> Gary Breen (86)
Stephen Carr -> Ian Harte (90)
Deniz foe Alpay,46
Okan for Tayfun,46
Uzulmez for Hasan Sas,46
Catkic for Rustu,60
Gordeniz for Emre,61
Okan for Tuncay,73
Ahmet for Tugay, 73
Zafer for Catkic ,86
Tumur for Hakah Sukur, 86
Umit for Bulent,86
A remarkable contest provided an outrageous climax as two goals were swopped in the closing six minutes before 27,200 excited fans at Lansdowne Road last night.Ireland fought with typical courage to match a highly-skilled and sophisticated Turkey to stretch Brian Kerr’s unbeaten run to nine matches as the Irish shadow squad battled to restore morale damaged in Saturday’s disappointing draw with Russia.
Ireland were lucky to protect their run for when Gardeniz crossed from the left wing for Okan to head a third goal for Turkey four minutes into added time, the referee erred in ruling offside. A review of the incident on video showed that Okan had been a yard onside when the cross was made.
In the overall context Ireland were worth their draw. It was a case of back to basics, with the emphasis upon the characteristics that help us bridge the gap with teams possessed of individuals more technically advanced, more adroit and, in consequence, more versatile in their play.
That much was evident immediately as Ireland made sure the opening quarter was intensely competitive. They squeezed the Turks in midfield, ensured they were hurried in their distribution and kept the tempo high.
Mark Kinsella and Colin Healy coped with a difficult task with admirable tenacity. They hunted and harried, pressed persistently in a midfield peopled by slick and elusive Turks.
The strikers, Connolly and Doherty, ensured Turkey’s back four were confronted consistently and Ireland’s back four were impressively strong and assertive.
This is not to suggest that the team that played Russia was less than totally honest in their approach.
Ireland mixed it much more effectively than they had done against Russia and there was a passion and a drive in their play that had been missing.
Their lead goal after 35 minutes was totally deserved. It came when Finnan floated a ball from inside his own half over the top of the defence. Connolly reached it in tandem with Alpay, twice shaped as if to hit the ball and turned inside each time from the left of goal to fire a glorious shot low beyond Rustu’s right hand from 16 yards.
This was a goal greeted with delight by the Irish for they clearly recognised Connolly’s long campaign to end his drought. Connolly was excellent, presenting himself for the ball as always in an exemplary fashion, linking superbly and his finish was sheer class.
He set the standard, not just in his bright and breezy football but also in his application to the less attractive side of the game. He worked back with a will to disrupt Turkey in midfield and add his weight to the struggle to recover possession.
His partnership with Gary Doherty was a fruitful one, for the big centre-forward had the ability to win the ball in the air and the physical presence that ensured Ireland were not pushed about in the Turkish penalty area. With the big defenders, like Gary Breen, prepared to engage on a physical level as well from the set-pieces, Turkey were often struggling to counter a very focused Ireland.
Ireland had given them an early foretaste of what was to come when Damien Duff showed his delightful skills in putting the ball in the net. He ran on to a glorious diagonal pass from Healy that carried for 50 yards over the top and Duff caught it on his instep before flicking it nonchalantly beyond Rustu, but from an offside position.
This incident occurred after just eleven minutes and while Turkey played some delightful football and impressed with the pace and accuracy of their one-touch passing movements, Ireland were never prepared to accept second best.
It was an attitude that served them well and ensured they were full value for their late escape after the second half had degenerated into farce by a succession of substitutions.
Ireland looked set to lose in heart-breaking fashion when Turkey cut the defence open in the 86th minute. Ergun’s cross from the left swerved into the path of the speeding Okan and his header gave Joe Murphy no chance.
This threat to Kerr’s unbeaten run was an affront to Irish dignity after a contest that was hugely entertaining and sprinkled by moments of sheer brilliance by players on both sides.
Two minutes of added time had elapsed when Carr drove in a corner from the left and as the ball dwelt for a moment on the shoulders of a couple of players, Richard Dunne patiently waited for it to fall and then volleyed it in from 12 yards. Justice for a heart-warming Irish performance was seen to be done !
IRELAND (4-4-2); Colgan (Murphy 73); Finnan, O’Brien (Dunne 73), Breen (Morrison 86), Harte (Carr 89); Duff (Reid 46), Healy (McPhail 86), Kinsella, Kilbane; Doherty, Connolly.
TURKEY (4-4-2: Rustu (Catkic 60/Zafer 86); Fatih Akyel, Alpay (Deniz 46), Bulent (Umit 86), Ergun; Tayfun (Okan 46), Tugay (Ahmet 73), Emre (Gordeniz 61), Hasan Sas (Uzulmez 46); Hakah Sukur (Tumer 86), Tuncay (Okan 73).
Referee: J. Wegereef (Holland).