Ireland v Serbia: Player Ratings
Ireland played out a Nil-Nil draw with Serbia in Belgrade tonight.
With Shane Long being withdrawn near kick-off as a precaution, Ireland started off playing a 4-5-1, with O'Shea and O'Dea at centreback and Kelly and McShane in the full back slots in defence.
Whelan bossed the area in front of the back four with McCarthy and McClean both playing beyond him in central midfield. Simon Cox and McGeady were the wide men as Walters foraged alone up front.
Nearly every player on the pitch deserves an extra rating point for seeming to bother about this meaningless match friendly being played in Eastern Europe ahead of the kick-off of the Premier League season.
Ireland played with an energy and degree of enthusiasm that saw them emerge from Belgrade with a credible draw, though they didn't really threaten or have their own goal threatened throughout the match in a significant manner.
Here's JOE's player ratings:
Kieren Westwood - 6
Was nearly caught out badly in the first half when he hesitated to go for a ball outside his box in the 13th minute and needed two attempts to clear the ball, against less lethargic opponents that could cost him and Ireland.
Aside from that his distribution was great. He pinged the ball long and accurately when necessary which will be good from Trap's perspective, less so from those looking for more subtle build-up play.
Made a couple of great saves, particularly from one free-kick in the 70th minute which he saw late. Not a bad replacement for Given.
Stephen Kelly - 5
Okay performance from the Fulham man. Made a few overlaps in the first half but Tomic and Lekic did target him as the weak link to attack as the game went on. Probably needed more support from McGeady.
John O’Shea - 5
Decent performance, but never as commanding as Richard Dunne when drafted into the centre back position. Didn’t impose his authority when Serbia got near the Irish box.
Darren O’Dea - 7
The newly signed Toronto FC man was the better of the two centre halves. Made a couple of well-timed and crucial interventions. Alert, quick and assured and in fairness never lets Ireland down when called upon. A good night for the 25-year old.
Paul McShane - 6
Quite solid and confident going for the ball. Ventured forward on the overlap a good few times in the first half and offered an outlet for Cox when he got caught running into cul de sacs.
Aiden McGeady - 5
Grew into the match and looked quite good in the second half, but was Ireland's most wasteful player in possession in the first half. When he switched wings with Cox in the second half he had more joy and began to link up well with McCarthy and McGeady.
Glenn Whelan - 5
Was able to sit in front of the defence and do his job with less hassle than usual as he the shield of McCarthy and McClean in front of him. Usually swamped by the extra midfielder most teams employ against the Irish 4-4-2 system. Needs to be more incisive with the ball at his feet.
James McCarthy - 7
Constantly beckoning for the ball, creating angles and outlets for the pass and offering himself. It seems like a simple thing to do but it's a job no Irish player has done well since Steven Reid and Roy Keane before him. He needs to be included in any Irish midfield Trap will use in the qualifiers. His athletic prowess was more than able to allow him to perform his defensive duties.
James McClean - 7
He hinted on Twitter that he'd be playing midfield and that's exactly where he did play as Ireland played a variation of the 4-5-1. He played slightly ahead of both Whelan and McCarthy and did so brilliantly in the first half. His rampaging runs and pressing of opposing midfielders on the ball added an urgency to the Irish midfield that we haven't seen in a long time.
Who knows if he'll play centrally or out wide for the qualifiers? It doesn’t matter really, his enthusiasm needs to be included in the first XI regardless.
Jonathon Walters - 5
A largely thankless job of running around, winning headers and hassling defenders. His movement was good for his chance in the 18th minute but his shot could have been better, We need to more threatening up front, but that's tough when Walters is isolated up front like this and not required to drop deep for the ball like he does for Stoke.
Simon Cox - 5
Not a winger.
Didn't do anything wrong. Didn't add anything either.
He needs to play as a striker near the box where he comes alive, not as a winger where he's left as isolated and forlorn as Walters is up front.
Paul Green (for Whelan ''60) 4
Patrolled in front of the back four when Whelan came off. Passing wasn't great, misplaced a six-yard pass into touch at one stage.
Andy Keogh (for McClean ''70) 4
Ran a lot, showed a lot of energy but for no reason or with any purpose. In fairness it's hard to run with a purpose or strategy in a match that not many of the players care about. Like Green misplaced a few basic passes.
Seamus Coleman (Aiden McGeady''80) and Joey O'Brien (Jonathon Walters ''80) Not on long enough for rating.
Usually there would be enough time to give a rating for ten minutes of play, but by the time O'Brien and Coleman came on no player was really interested in the match beyond making sure they didn't sustain an injury in it with the Premier League kicking off. Would be harsh to judge a performance under those circumstances.
Manager: Giovanni Trapattoni - 7
Trap tried out a new system so points have to be given for innovation.
The 4-5-1 has potential although leaving Walters as the top striker might not be ideal as he is a deep-lying forward. His notion that Cox has value as a winger persists and it is unlikely that Cox or McClean will play in the positions they did today for the World Cup qualifying matches so what was the point?
He should really be rated on what he will do with his full squad back for the competitive games but we're only rating him on tonight.
Experimentation and trying out things is something we needed to see today and we got that. Can’t complain.