England 3-0 Republic of Ireland
Ireland were beaten by England for the first time in 35 years as Stephen Kenny’s side suffered a comprehensive 3-0 defeat to Gareth Southgate’s side in the friendly encounter at Wembley Stadium.
The number four ranked side in the world were slow to get going, allowing Ireland some early pressure, however, there was only one winner in this one-sided affair once the hosts took the lead.
Two first-half goals from Harry Maguire and Jadon Sancho gave Gareth Southgate’s side a commanding lead at the break, and the result was put beyond doubt in the 56th minute as Dominic Calvert-Lewin made no mistake from the penalty spot.
A talented yet inexperienced England team was named by Gareth Southgate, while Ireland were down to the bare bones once again as Seamus Coleman was the latest player to be ruled out before kick-off with a recurrence of an old injury.
A moment’s reflection before the game to remember 1966 World Cup winner Nobby Stiles, an international team-mate of former Ireland manager Jack Charlton, who also died earlier this year.
The last time the two sides met was in Dublin back in 2015 where the sides played out a scoreless draw, and it was a slow start to tonight’s encounter played in front of an empty arena in London as a result of the coronavirus.
England’s high press began to pay off in the early exchanges, however, as the home side forced a couple of corners, which led to a chance for Tyrone Mings at the far post; Callum O’Dowda doing well to put the defender off on impact.
But then Ireland started to play and they stretched the home side on more than one occasion, playing at pace from back to front with the ever-lively Daryl Horgan getting plenty of possession on the right flank.
A dangerous ball across the face, followed by a free-kick from outside the box were all that was gained from a sustained spell of play, but the ball across the six-yard box went abegging, while an offside was called from the set-piece.
John Egan had to bow out of the action in the 14th minute as a result of an earlier bang to the head and the Sheffield United man was replaced by West Brom youngster Dara O’Shea.
England again started to dominate and came close to opening the scoring after 17 minutes as Darren Randolph flapped at a looping ball to the back post, but made amends with a reaction save from Bukayo Saka.
One minute later, the deadlock was broken, and it was the home side who took control of this friendly fixture.
A corner was not fully cleared and the ball was helped back in from the right side of the box, allowing Harry Maguire to get a run at Ireland captain Shane Duffy, before guiding his header to the right of Randolph into the corner of the net.
Buoyed by the goal, England maintained the pressure inside the final third and another chance presented itself in the 27th minute with Maguire again beating Duffy in the air, but this time the header was touched over the top.
For all of England’s neat and tidy play, with Jack Grealish and Jadon Sancho pulling the strings, they were relying on their set-pieces to work the Ireland goal, and in the 30th minute they had already won eight corners.
And again, the home side capitalised, as Ireland failed to clear, allowing more crisp passing across the edge of the box.
Grealish and Sancho linked up once again and this time the former Ireland Under-21 international rolled the ball out to the Borussia Dortmund man cutting in from the left.
A clever touch back onto his right foot and a clinical finish through the legs of Jeff Hendrick and beyond Randolph as the ball flew inside the far post.
Suddenly, Ireland were floundering as they played out the half in their own half, getting stretched left and right, while desperately defending to keep the deficit down to only two at the break.
The half-time break offered some welcome respite for Kenny’s charges, however, England re-surfaced looking to kill the game off early in the second half with Grealish and Saka both coming close inside the opening five minutes of the second period.
A training match scenario for the home side, made more realistic by the empty arena, while Ireland remained camped inside their own half until goal number three inevitably arrived.
Just ten minutes of the second half had passed as Cyrus Christie dangled a leg at Saka who was skipping to the byline, and the referee had no hesitation pointing to the spot.
Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin dispatched the penalty kick to the top corner giving the Ireland keeper no chance of keeping his side in this game that still had well over half an hour to play.
Ireland’s answer was to throw on three subs with James McClean, Robbie Brady and Kevin Long sent into the mix, but it was no solution to the blue wave that kept lapping against the wall of white sitting deep inside their own half.
Maguire should have made it four for the hosts in the 66th minute but he could not help his header home from just yards out from goal, Long hanging out of the England captain probably did enough to distract the Manchester United man.
More changes for Ireland as Ronan Curtis and Jayson Molumby were sent on with twenty minutes remaining, when suddenly Ireland broke clear as Alan Browne was rolled in on the edge of the box by a fine through ball by Brady.
The Preston North End midfielder opted to shoot on sight and the well-hit effort, while on target, was saved by Dean Henderson with his feet at the near post.
Another chance for Ireland in the 80th minute saw Curtis try his luck from distance following a fine run through midfield from fellow sub Molumby. But again Henderson was behind the shot and was barely troubled.
England worked their way down through the gears in the closing stages as Ireland maintained their push for a consolation, however, Duffy’s injury time header flew over the bar in what turned out to be the last chance of the game.
A match of no significance perhaps, however, the new manager has now gone six matches without a win and may question the logic of facing such a high-quality side at this juncture, especially with two Nations League games to play over the coming week.
England: Nick Pope (Dean Henderson HT); Michael Keane, Harry Maguire, Tyrone Mings (Ainsley Maitland-Niles 61); Reece James, Mason Mount (Jude Bellingham 73), Harry Winks, Jack Grealish (Phil Foden), Bukayo Saka; Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Tammy Abraham 63), Jadon Sancho.
Ireland: Darren Randolph; Cyrus Christie (Kevin Long 61), Matt Doherty, Shane Duffy, John Egan (Dara O’Shea 14); Conor Hourihane (Jayson Molumby 71), Jeff Hendrick, Alan Browne; Daryl Horgan (Robbie Brady 61), Callum O’Dowda (McClean 60), Adam Idah (Ronan Curtis 71).
Referee: Carlos Del Cerro Grande (ESP).