Thursday, February 12, 2009

Trapattoni Hails Keane's match-winning display

Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni has hailed Robbie Keane's match-winning display against Georgia as proof of the quality that Liverpool failed to recognise.

Keane's second-half double ensured Ireland claimed a controversial 2-1 win over the Georgians and moved joint top of group 8 alongside Italy.

It also served as a reminder of the striking qualities that appeared to go unnoticed during Keane's unhappy six months at Liverpool prior to his recent return to Tottenham.

Trapattoni said his skipper had displayed real character. "He has not played every week, but he played here tonight in front of 50,000 in a World Cup qualifier, and you could see he enjoyed it," the Italian said. "Robbie was very important for us."

Georgia boss Hector Cuper claimed his side were robbed of at least a point after Ireland were awarded a dubious second half penalty.

Keane converted to cancel out Georgia's shock first-minute opener and then claimed the winner four minutes later.

The Georgians had every reason to feel aggrieved when Finnish referee Jouni Hyytia, taking charge of his last competitive international, awarded a penalty for a handball from a pass that was destined for Keane in an offside position. To add insult to injury the ball appeared to strike Ucha Lobjanidze's shoulder.

Cuper was restrained in his comments, accepting that his team had been under sustained pressure at the time of the controversial decision.

"I don't know if we lost the match because of the penalty awarded by the referee but it cost us a point," he said. "The situation was strange because no-one knew why it was given.

"Of course, the players were very angry and I can say it effected their concentration. It influenced negatively the morale of the team."

Cuper added: "In the first half, the match was equal. In the second half, unfortunately, we couldn't manage to maintain the rhythm.

"I was concerned before the game because Georgian players were still in preparation after the winter break and I knew it would make it difficult for us in the second half. But for the most part we managed."

A mix up in the Irish defence involving third-choice right-back Stephen Kelly, allowed Karlruhe striker Alexander Iashvili in for the softest of goals after a good flick by David Siradze.

The Irish team looked stunned for the remainder of the opening quarter until a Keith Andrews goal on his competitive debut was ruled out midway through the first half.

Ireland were shocked again in the 58th minute when Iashvili thought he scored a second only for the referee to rule offside.

But it was their last major scare before the controversial penalty and a fine diving header four minutes later took Keane's international tally to 37 goals.

Trapattoni accepted the penalty was fortunate but refused to see it as a turning point as his team pummelled the Georgian defence for the majority of the second half.

"I think we got the luck but every Sunday in every country there are situations like this," said the Italian.

"In the first half we deserved not lose. But I think we deserved to win because it is not easy to get a great reaction from the team like we got in the second half."

Trapattoni admitted his players had been demoralised after being booed off the pitch at half-time by sections of the home support.

"I gave them a positive message," he said. "I said to them play the ball simple, simple, simple - but quickly. It was difficult because there were 19 players within 30 metres.

"They had three midfielders we had two but in the second half we won lots of ball. That was very important."

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