A Robbie Keane solitary strike in the first half was enough to give the Republic of Ireland a 1-0 over Craig Levein’s Scotland side, and with that win, the inaugural and possibly the last Carling Nations Cup was donned in Ireland’s colours and lifted by Robbie Keane, while the Scots sat on the turf dreaming of their summer holidays.
With a good Nations Cup campaign behind them, which saw Northern Ireland and Wales succumb to Scotland, it looked as though Scotland were determined to win the inaugural Nations Cup and they came out of the traps with that goal in mind.
Charlie Adam fired over the Irish crossbar with six minutes on the clock, and seconds later youngster Grant Hanley fired a ball up to Kenny Miller inside the penalty box, but the stand-in skipper failed to control it and the chance went begging.
Scotland were inching closer to the opener, on 15 minutes, Sunderland’s Phil Bardsley unleashed a superb strike from 25 yards out, however Shay Given was equal to the shot and tipped the ball onto the crossbar.
With the likes of Stephen Hunt and Robbie Keane in the side, Ireland were always a danger going forward, and the two Irishmen linked up well on the edge of the Scotland box, but Hunt’s shot was gathered by McGregor.
But on 23 minutes, Scotland gifted Ireland the opener. Steven Naismith was robbed in possession by Paul McShane, passing to Robbie Keane who ran from inside his own box before finding the back of the net from 20 yards out. It was a shot that McGregor should have saved, but after a long season the Rangers keeper may be forgiven for diving lazily at the ball. He certainly wasn’t helped by his defence who backtracked at the sight of Keane bearing down on them, and failed to challenge him as he approached or put a block in when the ball left his foot.
Scotland almost got a goal back immediately when Barry Robson sent a cross in from the right, but Miller hit fresh air. It was a glorious chance to score, which Miller once again missed, and would not be the last time either.
As half time approached, Scotland fell by the wayside and were losing possession far too cheaply, and Charlie Adam firing passes everywhere except for where it was meant to go.
After the break Scotland came out looking lethargic, as they struggled to gain any foothold in the Irish half. Levein brought on Barry Bannan for Charlie Adam, who had failed to turn up on the day.
Within a minute of the change, Scotland wasted another chance to find the back of the net. Barry Robson did well to gather the ball on the right and sent a pin point cross to the back post where debut boy James Forrest was lurking, but the Celtic youngster couldn’t direct his volley goalward and the Irish were let off the hook again, but Scotland’s failure in the final third.
15 minutes were remaining of the match, when Scotland were denied a stonewall penalty when Stephen Hunt held onto Kenny Miller’s arm preventing him from clear goal scoring opportunity. Despite the protests he gave a goal kick, but Miller protesting was a step too far as the home-sick Bursaspor striker was booked for his complaints.
Scotland searched for an equaliser and despite their possession they continued to fire blanks in front of goal. Steven Naismith volleyed wide when he should have done better and Kenny Miller failed to hit find the back of the net being denied by Given once more.
With six minutes to go Ireland took off captain Robbie Keane to a hero’s reception from the Irish support.
However Scotland should have snatched at least a draw in the final minutes of the game, but Kenny Miller missed the best chance of the game. Put through on goal by Steven Naismith, Miller held off Stephen Kelly, before sending his shot over Given and wide of the post.
Republic of Ireland: Given, McShane, O’Dea (Foley 66), Kelly, Ward, Lawrence (Coleman 62), Andrews, Fahey, Hunt, Keane (Treacy 83), Cox.
Subs Not Used: Forde, Randolph, Delaney, Keogh, St. Ledger.
Scotland: McGregor, Whittaker, Hanley, Berra, Bardsley, Forrest (McCormack 85), Brown, Adam (Bannan 63), Robson (Maguire 75), Naismith, Miller.
Subs Not Used: Gilks, Turner, McArthur, Caldwell, Wilson, Martin.
Ref: Mark Whitby (Wales)