Republic of Ireland 1-0 Switzerland
Shane Duffy wasted little time staking his claim for a place in the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2016 squad as Martin O’Neill’s side beat Switzerland 1-0 at the Aviva Stadium.
The Blackburn Rovers defender rose majestically in the second minute to divert his header into the path of Ciaran Clark, who scored the only goal of the game at the Lansdowne Road venue.
And the makeshift central defensive partnership did not put a foot wrong all night as a disciplined Ireland secured the slender victory.
Earning just his second senior cap, the 24-year-old was one of the two new arrivals named in the starting XI alongside Brentford midfielder Alan Judge, who was making his debut in tonight’s encounter.
And the game kicked into life straight away as Ireland raced down the left flank to win a corner inside the opening 60 seconds.
The first was dealt with but a second corner followed moments later and this time, Robbie Brady’s outswinging delivery was met perfectly by Duffy, who guided the ball goalwards. Clark was perfectly placed inside the six-yard box to guide the ball past YannSommer in the Swiss goal.
Duffy’s fine header quickly banished any early jitters and the former Everton man was again involved four minutes later, showcasing his defensive attributes as he intercepted a whipped cross from the right to head clear.
By contrast, Judge spent the opening exchanges marooned out wide on the right and his only involvement was a well-hit cross early on before giving the ball away in the 11th minute, which sent the visitors on a dangerous counterattack.
The ball was worked well down the left before a tempting delivery was rolled across the box, but Duffy had dashed the length of the pitch back into position to get a vital touch to guide the ball back to keeper Darren Randolph.
Ireland were looking comfortable after the opening exchanges but the Swiss were getting some joy down the flanks as Blerim Dzemaili and Haris Seferovic threatened the Ireland goal, but both efforts missed the target.
Seferovic’s header from a corner flew just over the bar after the striker had easily beaten Clark in the air.
Judge and McGeady had now switched wings in an effort to get the Brentford man more involved.
But the game was held up after 23 minutes as Kevin Doyle had to be stretchered off with what looked like a knee injury.
Daryl Murphy replaced the Stateside striker in a like-for-like substitution as the manager appeared happy with his traditional 4-4-2 formation.
With half an hour played, Ireland were just about worthy of their lead but the direct style was doing little to please the eye, as ball after ball was launched at the centre-forwards.
The midfield were essentially being bypassed, which was doing little for Judge, who was looking to get on the ball but to little avail.
The Swiss sought to get back on level terms in the 34th minute and it took an alert Randolph to save a deflected Xhaka effort from the edge of the box.
The visitors were starting to look dangerous, yet it was Ireland who almost doubled their lead in the 37th minute after a quick free-kick was well worked out to Coleman, who cut inside and clipped a delightful ball in for Long to meet at pace.
The Southampton striker’s headed effort crashed off the inside of the bar and Long then attempted to divert the rebound back on target but there was no pace on the ball and it was easily saved.
Breel Embolo was played in on the right five minutes before the break as Switzerland attempted to draw level before half-time and while the midfielder got to the ball well before the advancing Ireland keeper, his clipped cross could not find a white shirt to turn the ball home.
There were no changes after the break as the formation remained and Ireland were happy to try to find space over the top of the retreating Swiss line.
And it must be said, the visitors were struggling to deal with the direct approach as Murphy muscled his way in down the left and dragged a cross back, which just eluded Long before McGeady was unable to threaten with the loose ball.
But again it was the Swiss who were trying to create with some neat play and angled deliveries, endeavouring to work the ball into the final third.
And they were almost rewarded as the impressive Dzemaili produced a textbook slide-rule pass to send Embolo racing through on goal, but this time Clark was alert to the danger and raced across to clear.
The substitutes arrived en masse in the 61st minute as EunanO’Kane and Jonny Hayes came on for their senior debuts, along with James McCarthy.
The game, as expected, took a turn for the worse with all the new arrivals –with more following shortly after – and it appeared that Ireland were looking to run a training ground routine of holding onto a slender lead.
And to their credit, they executed it quite well, allowing the Swiss to enjoy possession without threatening.
Meanwhile, Ireland’s odd hopeful ball over the top for Long to chase failed to reap any rewards.
But the visitors almost grabbed an equaliser in the 82nd minute after a slight mix-up between Coleman and Randolph allowed the ball to be clipped inside before sub Shani Tarashaj’s shot from the edge of the box rolled just past the wrong side of the post.
With all the changes, Ireland were left without a striker for the final seven minutes, with James McClean left to lead the line while Wes Hoolahan dropped deep into the now midfield five.
A rare lapse of concentration by the Swiss almost allowed Ireland in to grab an undeserved second in the last minute as O’Kane raced clear, but his clever effort from distance flew past the post.
So another successful night at the office for the Ireland manager, whose side are getting into the habit of winning and building confidence ahead of this summer’s main event.
Republic of Ireland:Darren Randolph; Seamus Coleman, Ciaran Clark, Shane Duffy, Robbie Brady; Stephen Quinn (James McCarthy 61), David Meyler (EunanO’Kane 61), Alan Judge, Aiden McGeady (Jonny Hayes 61); Kevin Doyle (Daryl Murphy 26 (Wes Hoolahan 72)), Shane Long (James McClean 84).
Switzerland:Yann Sommer; Timm Klose, Michael Lang (Silvan Widmer 82), Breel Embolo, Ricardo Rodriguez (J-Francois Moubandje 79), Fabian Schar, Admir Mehmedi (Pajtim Kasami 72), Granit Xhaka, Haris Seferovic (Renato Steffan 61), Blerim Dzemali (Shani Tarashaj 72), Valon Behrami (Gelson Fernandes 72).
Referee: Miroslav Zelinka (Czech Republic).