Two weakened sides dish out an entertaining draw at Lansdowne Road
Wed. 6 Sep 1989
Lansdowne Road, Dublin
Ref.: Frans van den Wijngaert (BEL)
Ireland had ten straight wins at Lansdowne Road. Belgium, in a European Championship qualifier back in ’87, had been the last team to prevent the Irish from winning there. In the same period, the Republic had also played two home friendlies at their former regular home of Dalymount Park, a 5-0 win against Israel and the 0-0 draw with France in February. To say they were strong on home soil was an understatement. And they had recently come from three successive qualification wins to set up a mouthwatering clash with the mighty West Germans. Eire were looking to qualify for their first ever World Cup. West Germany were battling it out with the Netherlands to finish top of Group 4, and they were looking to win their two remaining qualifiers, at home to Finland and Wales, in order to avoid having to rely on going through as one of two second placed teams from the three groups consisting of four countries.
The two FAs had agreed that both teams would be allowed to make four substitutions during the course of the game, of which one had to be a goalkeeper.
Republic of Ireland team news
The Republic of Ireland were without three big players in Kevin Moran of Sporting Gijón, who had been a tower of strength at the heart of their defence so far in the qualification, Liverpool livewire Ray Houghton, as well as Everton’s winger Kevin Sheedy. Without the two latter, manager Jackie Charlton had to put out a completely new pair of wingers in Ronnie Whelan and Tony Galvin for right and left respectively, though one did well to suspect that the former would far from be a winger in the traditional sense. Galvin, now managed by Argentine Osvaldo Ardiles, his former team mate with Tottenham, at Swindon in the second tier of English football, had featured in their 2-0 defeat away to Spain, but this was only his second appearance since the 1988 European Championships. In the centre of the park, there would be a rare starting berth for veteran Liam Brady, now of West Ham in the English second division. Brady had come on as a sub for two of Ireland’s six qualifiers until now. Famously, the 33 year old had been left out of the ’88 squad following his sending-off against Bulgaria in the final qualifier and his subsequent suspension. Against the West Germans, Brady would win his 71th cap to extend his own Irish record number of internationals. However, another veteran in the shape of forward Frank Stapleton, also given a start, was only one match behind him with 70. Stapleton got the nod ahead of regular starter Tony Cascarino. At the back, right sided defender Chris Morris was back in the eleven having sat out their last three qualifiers, with Chris Hughton giving way. Also, and more importantly, there was a welcome return for the dependable Mick McCarthy, now of Olympique Lyon, who had missed the wins against Malta and Hungary, with David O’Leary filling in. Now they would feature together at the heart of the defence, with the rock solid Paul McGrath seen in his by now traditional shielding role in centre midfield.
West Germany team news
So it may have been an under strength Irish side, but what about the West Germans? Due to club commitments, there were no Italian based players in their squad, something which saw the absence of such quality as Internazionale trio Andy Brehme, Lothar Matthäus and Jürgen Klinsmann, as well as Roma duo Thomas Berthold and Rudi Völler. In addition, they had to make do without big Bayern Munich defender Jürgen Kohler, who was injured. Only five of the eleven who had started in their last qualifier, the 0-0 draw in Wales in May, had survived. Still, despite only featuring players from the Bundesliga, it was fair to say that team leader Franz Beckenbauer had sent out a strong side, even if there were a few players still in single appearance figures. They were with experience at the back, where Klaus Augenthaler and Guido Buchwald would take up the central roles with a combined age of 59, and they had a wealth of talented midfielders, where undoubtedly Pierre Littbarski was the most experienced. Winning his 61st cap, Littbarski took to the pitch as the West German captain. Around him were skillful, though relatively small, players such as Thomas Häßler, Olaf Thon and Andy Möller. Up front, as they were not just without Klinsmann and Völler, but also Werder Bremen’s Karl-Heinz Riedle, Bayern’s Roland Wohlfarth would win his only second international. He was one of six Munich players in the starting line-up; Cologne had three. Other West German strikers at this time included Borussia Dortmund legend Frank Mill, who had never succeeded at international level. At 31, his 14 caps had yet to bring a goal. Klaus Allofs had long since retired. Frank Neubarth of Werder Bremen, Herbert Waas, now with Bologna after a fine career with Bayer Leverkusen, and Dieter Eckstein of Nuremberg had also not had instant success with die Mannschaft.
From eight previous meetings, West Germany had won five to the Irish’ three, which was not at all a bad record for today’s hosts. Every meeting between the two had been friendlies, with the most recent taking place just over ten years earlier at the same venue. The West Germans had run out 3-1 winners with two late goals, having come from behind. Remarkably, the Irish had no less than three survivors from that clash, with O’Leary, Brady and Stapleton all having taken to the field in starting capacities. West Germany had on that occasion given debuts to players such as Bernd Schuster and Dieter Hoeneß.
Referee was 38 year old Belgian Frans van den Wijngaert, who was indeed making his debut on the international stage. However, he was considered an up and coming man in Belgium, and he would go on and enjoy a fine refereeing career. His most memorable occasion will have been the second leg of the 1995 UEFA Cup final between Italian rivals Parma and Juventus.
Rep of Ireland (4-4-2)
|1 Packie Bonner
|2 Chris Morris
|3 Steve Staunton
|4 Mick McCarthy (c)
|5 David O’Leary
|6 Liam Brady
|7 Paul McGrath
|8 John Aldridge
|9 Frank Stapleton
|10 Ronnie Whelan
|11 Tony Galvin
|12 John Byrne
|14 Andy Townsend
|on 35′, 49′
|15 Tony Cascarino
West Germany (4-5-1)
|1 Bodo Illgner
|2 Stefan Reuter
|3 Hansi Pflügler
|4 Guido Buchwald
|5 Klaus Augenthaler
|6 Hans Dorfner
|7 Andreas Möller
|8 Olaf Thon
|9 Roland Wohlfarth
|10 Pierre Littbarski (c)
|11 Thomas Häßler
|12 Raimond Aumann
|13 Alois Reinhardt
|14 Holger Fach
Rep of Ireland
To no one’s surprise, the Republic of Ireland take to the field in a 4-4-2. However, they are with Whelan as the right-sided midfielder, and as he’s normally operating in the centre and is far from your ideal wide man, he’s inclined to coming inside from time to time, although he’s clearly under instructions to remain out wide. Both full-backs wish to be contributing going forward, but Morris probably more so than Staunton, and this is possibly another planned for piece in J Charlton’s tactics: Staunton has Galvin, a very typical winger, in front of him, whereas Whelan’s wish to feature in the centre may leave space for Morris to take advantage of. The Irish start with Stapleton alongside Aldridge up front, but due to the West Germans’ numerical advantage in the centre of the park, Stapleton will soon drop back into an advanced midfield position to try and assist McGrath and Brady when the visitors are in possession. Despite being without their usual target man Cascarino from kick-off, the Irish will attempt to aim at Stapleton as his replacement when their backline is in possession.
4-5-1 for the visitors, and with no clear libero this time around. Both full-backs push forward when there’s an opportunity, though Pflügler on the left hand side is less contributive than Reuter. In fact, the West German team does tend to concentrate their play more towards the right than towards the left. They are with Dorfner in a deep-lying playmaking role, and Möller and Littbarski start off the match in inside half roles. However, Littbarski will be drawn more towards a central position with the progress of the half, dropping somewhat deeper and more towards centre/centre right. Neither Häßler nor Thon are natural wide midfielders, and during the half, they will both seek to accompany their central midfielders, although Häßler less so than Thon. Up front, Wohlfarth is quite isolated, and he is rarely involved in play. At the centre of the West German defence, both Augenthaler and Buchwald are comfortable on the ball, with the former at times seeking his wide men with long, raking passes.
Rep of Ireland
No half-time changes for the home side, but they had felt the need to bring into play Townsend for Brady quickly after the West German equalizer in the first half. They had seen how the visitors’ midfield dominance had seen West Germany take control of the match, and they clearly felt the need for more presence and physicality in midfield. This is what Townsend would bring. And Stapleton as the deeper of the two strikers still sought to shackle Dorfner at the rear of the West Germany midfield. At times, Aldridge would be slightly isolated up front. With just under 20 minutes left for play, the Irish throw on Byrne and Cascarino as their two strikers, obviously replacing Aldridge and Stapleton. They will still try and use one of them in a role similar to Stapleton’s, as the West German numerical midfield advantage’s still evident once the visitors are in possession. Cascarino does this job, with Byrne sitting up top like Aldridge had done.
Beckenbauer had made two changes in personnel at half-time, with Aumann replacing Illgner between the sticks, and A Reinhardt taking over for Buchwald at the heart of the defence. There were clear similarities between Buchwald and his successor, both in tactics and in them as players. As had been seen during the first half, right-back Reuter would at times look to come inside and deliever little passes to the agile midfielders around him. The composition of the West German midfield appeared to have taken a slightly different shape for the second half, with Dorfner still the deep man, whereas Möller had probably moved slightly higher in the pitch, possibly to try and lend support for Wohlfarth as the sole striker. Littbarski’s role still saw him shift from one side to another, as well as operating in central positions. Möller, when opting to drop back a bit, was more than capable of spreading wonderful passes towards both flank men. The midfield dynamism appeared to be better after the break. Even Dorfner felt the need to break forward in order to free himself from Stapleton’s attention. When the Irish bring on Cascarino and Byrne as strikers, it will be Reinhardt who takes the battles with the big Irish target man. For the final five minutes, Fach comes into Dorfner’s holding midfield role.
On a cloudy Dublin afternoon it is the home side to kick proceedings off through forward duo Stapleton and Aldridge. The Irish show their intent right away as both Whelan and Morris are seen aiming balls in behind the West German defence with less than a minute on the clock. They look for runs in the channels, and Stapleton is getting into Pflügler’s left-back territory with some frequency. Stapleton is seen as Cascarino’s replacement, as the regular starter’s on the bench this afternoon, and the veteran marksman seems to relish the occasion, playing against one of the top sides in Europe. Ireland will get Stapleton away down the right hand channel on no less than three occasions inside the opening four minutes, and on the final attempt his cross into the centre is too long, but left-back Staunton is on hand to pick the ball up on the opposite flank, and when the full-back swings it back in, it is Whelan who’s come in from his wide position to guide a header just over Illgner’s goal frame. Surely, West Germany will have known what was coming; yet they were unable to close the Republic down sufficiently. Whelan’s header is a fine opportunity.
Short West German midfielders
The Irish Lansdowne Road record speaks volumes with ten straight wins and only two goals conceded. Another of Europe’s top nations had returned back home with defeat as recently as four and a half months earlier, when Míchel’s own goal had condemned Spain to a 1-0 loss. The visitors had not been beat since that 2-1 defeat to the Netherlands on home soil in the European Championships, and their decision to pick a five man strong midfield where no player was typically known for his physicality seemed a surprising one. To stand up against a strong team such as the Irish, and especially away from home, would demand strength. However, Beckenbauer instead relied heavily on the fact that this midfield consisted of purely athletic and dynamic players. Also, being set up in 4-5-1, they were a man to the good in the centre of the park, something which would surely be of great advantage to them. Not that it seemed so in the first few minutes, where the home side were putting the visitors under pressure through their relatively simple means of being as direct as ever. So would Beckenbauer’s idea work?
Stapleton appears to be playing with an almost youthful enthusiasm, as he makes those darting runs out into space coupled with being the target man for the Irish defenders to aim aerial balls towards. And only moments after Whelan’s effort, he’ll seize on a loose pass from Reuter and almost slide home the opening goal from just outside the centre circle. Illgner was on hand to spare Reuter’s blushes, though Stapleton’s opportunistic effort would probably just have crept wide of the post anyway. However, the former Arsenal and Manchester United striker was playing with a lot of desire, like he had a point to prove, and having lost his starting berth to this afternoon’s strike partner Aldridge for the Irish’ most recent match, the crucial 2-0 qualifying win at home to Hungary, he could surely have his reasons for belying the years with his zest. Just shy of the ten minute mark, Stapleton will get his name into Irish record books, equalling Don Givens’ goal scoring record of 19 strikes for the national team. Brady had lifted a free-kick from the halfway point, out towards the left, into the box in the direction of Aldridge, who was beaten in the air by the strong Buchwald. However, the ball would end up by the feet of right sided midfielder Häßler, who attempted to guide the ball safely back to his ‘keeper. What the diminutive Cologne man hadn’t noticed was Stapleton realizing his intention, and with the Blackburn striker obstructing the ball’s route back towards Illgner, the forward managed to slide it under the goalkeeper and into the net by the far post for 1-0. The Irish were ahead, and the visitors had hardly had a sniff. They had attempted to take the pace out of the game through some interpassing in midfield, but the aggressive home players had broken them up. Now Ireland had been rewarded for their efforts. (Pic: McGrath, Aldridge and Brady mob Stapleton after his goal.)
The next West German Spielführer?
This was now a big test for the rather makeshift West German team. If there was one thing which was for certain in the footballing world, though, it was that West Germany had character. They were unlikely to fold despite the hostile surroundings and tough opposition. And indeed, they kept plugging away, and they would gradually eat their way into the game, being able to keep the ball on the ground and stroking it between themselves in midfield. At the back of the West German midfield sat Dorfner, the 24 year old Bayern Munich man who was beginning to show his potential. He had been likened to such West German greats as Günter Netzer and Wolfgang Overath, yet it was fair to say that he had some way to go until he was quite at their lofty levels. In fact, he was aware that he was only in the team due to some heavy absences. Dorfner sat between the enthusiastic Möller and the experienced Littbarski, the visitors’ captain due to the fact that he was their highest cap. Dorfner seemed to save his energy, as he was far from putting in the same amount of yards as Möller and Littbarski. He would sit in the centre circle and keep things simple, which was indeed his role in the side. And as West Germany grew into the match, he would be more and more in contact with the ball.
West German midfield demonstrating its agility
It was unrealistic to think that Ireland would be able to maintain their high pace from the opening ten minutes for the rest of the half. Their game plan after going in front might even have been to sit back and let the visitors see more of the ball, though probably not to the extent that would become the case before 20 minutes had elapsed. West Germany were using their extra man in midfield to good advantage, and Ireland boss Charlton saw the need to instruct Stapleton to go back and do a job as an advanced midfielder, trying to apply pressure on the visitors in the centre of the park. McGrath was again the Irish enforcer, operating just ahead of his central defenders, but he would often sit too deep to be able to get in contact with the quick and nimble West German players. It was not just the visitors’ central three of Dorfner, Möller and Littbarski who were solid in possession, but also their two wide players Häßler and Thon. They were of quite similar build, the two West German wide midfielders, and both were also well capable of featuring in more central positions, only playing out wide to be accommodated in the eleven. At least that was the case with Thon, who was not even foreign to work from a libero position. For the hosts to keep a midfield consisting of such talent at bay throughout was unrealistic, and the pragmatic Charlton will have been aware of this. Still, he would have wanted more tigerishness to try and close the away team down. Brady, though a wonderful player when in possession, was no longer capable of chasing the ball for longer spells, and already a man short in central areas, the home team would almost find him a burden to their team. Harsh words for the Irish record cap, but international football can be brutal. There was little room for sentiment as Ireland sought to keep the West Germans out.
In spite of the increasing amount of possession for the visitors, they do not carve out any clear openings, and the game is approaching its halfway point until Bonner has to come into action. Thon chases a ball along the left, just on the edge of the penalty area, and only a couple of yards away from the byline he decides to have an attempt at goal, almost catching the Celtic stopper off guard on the near post. Bonner is able to get a firm hand to it, and O’Leary can boot the ball into touch for a West Germany corner. It was a fine piece of opportunism by the Bayern man, and yet another sign that the visitors were by now in charge of the tie. However, the home defence had stood tall so far, with Wohlfarth as the lone striker finding life difficult against O’Leary and the uncompromising McCarthy (pictured) in the centre. Wohlfarth at times looked like he didn’t know what had hit him when the Irish skipper again had beaten him to the ball, and appearing surprisingly static, he did not seem the ideal pick as the sole forward. But then again he was playing with a host of agile midfielders behind him, so his instructions might have been to stay put in the middle.
The Irish feeling the absence of key performers
Ireland had begun the match on the front foot, but the tables would be turned with a lot of force as the half progressed. The home side did not have a lot of pace in their team, and the long balls which had proved effectful early on were no longer bearing fruit. Stapleton had opened the match like a whirlwind, but having been told to do a job in midfield when the visitors were in possession, he no longer carried a spring in his step when trying to chase balls from the back. This job now fell to Aldridge, whose international career had never taken off. With this the Real Sociedad striker’s 26th cap, his return of a single goal was abysmal. This always seemed to affect him when he was wearing the green jersey of his (grandparents’) country, and he was of little threat to the West German defence. Playing without their possibly most influental midfielder Ray Houghton, Ireland were short of their energetic engine from the right hand side. Houghton’s club colleague from Liverpool, Whelan, was by all means also an important player, but featuring in a wide capacity, he was unable to exert any authority on the match. Whelan’s qualities were first and foremost on the ball and in the battle, whereas Charlton’s Ireland was looking for its wide midfielders to capitalize on space behind the opponents’ full-backs. Neither Whelan nor Tony Galvin on the opposite side, another veteran whose international career was surely coming to an end, had this distinction. And because of it, Ireland were suffering as a unit. It was a good thing their backbone was of such solid material.
Young Borussia Dortmund star Andy Möller was indeed one of those players that the West Germans were beginning to expect big things from. As the first half passed the half hour mark, Möller was seen more and more often on the ball, and he was even coming deep into territory which seemingly belonged to Dorfner in order to instigate attacks. He had so far made only one trademark run into the Irish penalty area, which had been when he took a Häßler pass first time with the inside of his right foot, but the ball had slid off and ended up well wide. It seemed futile to even attempt to run in behind the Irish defence, because they left no room to run into. And so Möller would opt to come deep instead. He would feed Häßler on the right, and when Brady had been slack in the pressure on the little, right sided player, Häßler could pick out the forward rushing Dorfner with a fine pass. Dorfner’s run was not tracked, and the central midfielder proceeded to hit the ball first time with his right foot from 25 yards, a shot with both precision and power which Bonner could only get a couple of fingers to, unable to prevent it from reaching the back of the net for the West German equalizer. Without having created any great opportunities except Thon’s opportunistic strike prior, the visitors were suddenly level. This prompted Charlton to withdraw Brady in order to replace him with the much more powerful Andy Townsend in the middle of the park. Townsend would add a lot of presence, and the only question in the direction of Charlton will have been why he had delayed this substitution to the extent that he did. Within two minutes of his arrival, Townsend had clattered into Littbarski with such force that the visitors’ captain ended up in a heap on the floor, in need of attention. Jackie Charlton would have been smiling at that challenge. (Pic: Dorfner, left, mobbed by his team mates after the equalizer.)
The remainder of the half saw more West German possession, though they were unable to create further openings. They did enjoy some dominance along their right hand side, where Irish left-back Staunton could perhaps have received better support from his wing man Galvin. West Germany full-back Reuter had only been sparingly used in an advancing capacity, but he did once get to the byline to aim a cross towards the near post, only for Bonner to make a comfortable claim. There had also been some fine combinations between Häßler and Littbarski, with the visiting captain’s right flank cross headed over his own bar by the retrieving McGrath. The relatively redundant Belgian referee blew his whistle for half time without any further goalmouth action. It had been a first half which had probably lived up to expectations, especially after the West Germans had recovered from the initial culture shock and having gone a goal down. 1-1.
The teams reappeared for the final 45 minutes with two changes having been made in the visiting dressing room. Beckenbauer had replaced goalkeeper Illgner with debutant Aumann, and at the heart of his defence he had taken off Buchwald for A Reinhardt, who only played with the West Germany crest on his chest for the second time. The home side had made no further changes in personnel since replacing Brady with Townsend shortly after the equalizer. Möller and Wohlfarth saw to to have the match restarted.
Reinhardt called into action
Would the Irish start the second half as fullbloodedly as they had the first? With 15 minutes of rest behind them, one could be forgiven for thinking so. The visitors had brought on two inexperienced men at international level, and it would be a fine test for Reinhardt at the heart of their defence to be up against a player as aerially strong as Stapleton. Whereas the Irish goalscorer had been on fire at the start of the first half, he would gradually disappear out of sight after he had been brought back to assist his central midfielders. For the start of the second half, Stapleton did very much look like he was back up front again. Aldridge had been anonymous, and so it was the Blackburn striker who was drawing the attention of the West German defence. It did seem that the young Bayer Leverkusen man who had come on would match Stapleton well in the air, and he would seemingly also have few problems following the Irish number 9 into the channels. Next to Reinhardt was the stylish Augenthaler, who, despite being 31, was only winning his 15th cap. Augenthaler was an expert of long crossfield passes, and he had used this skill to spread balls into the path of Häßler on the right on a couple of occasions in the first half.
It is no great surprise that it is Townsend who is awarded the first yellow card of the afternoon as he goes heavily and rather unnecessarily into Thon from behind halfway inside the West German half. Townsend had been putting himself about, but with Thon deep inside his own half, this act was just foolish and probably showing his lack of international experience. Now he would have to be wary not to make any rash challenges to get himself sent off, and it could be seen as an advantage for West Germany that Townsend was now treading a fine line. Thon is soon back up after some physio treatment. (Pic: Townsend being confronted by Augenthaler about the challenge on Thon which lead to his booking)
Visitors look at how they can break through
Whereas the home side employ simple, direct means in their attempts to breach the opposition’s defence, the visitors are clearly more thorough. Their skillful midfielders allow them to utilize both flanks as well as the more central areas when they go in search of opportunities. In fact, they seem to know of no other way. Wohlfarth might be under strict surveillance from the two Irish centre-backs, but he’s also given no chances to show his worth; the West Germans have no recipe for working their striker in the channels. This does stereotype them somewhat, and it makes it an easier task for the home side to dent their attacks. When the ball’s played into space rather than onto a foot, it stretches the Irish defence and makes it look more ominous right away, such as when Möller looks up from an inside left half position and spreads it diagonally for Häßler to run on to. The wide man takes a bad touch as he proceeds into the penalty area, and though he does make it past Staunton, O’Leary has recovered in time as his full-back’s insurance, and the seasoned Arsenal campaigner is able to boot the ball to safety. Minutes earlier, Möller had attempted a different approach in carrying the ball across the edge of Irish penalty area before attempting a left-footed strike. Also on that occasion the telescopic legs of O’Leary had proved impassable.
Crosses lacking in quality
When Ireland seek to create danger in front of West Germany’s goal, we’ve established that it will happen after direct play: The ball needs only a few touches to be played from their penalty area until the visitors’ box; preferably as few as possible. When they wish to be a little crazy and original, they bring their full-backs into play. Staunton on the left has been conservative all match, that early cross which Whelan headed over being the exception, but along the right hand side, Morris has been able to gallop forward on a few occasions, brought into play by a flick from one of the strikers. However, Morris’ crosses are lacking in qualities. He does not deliever a technically well executed cross even from an advanced position not far from the byline. He tends to get too much air under the ball, and rather than creating an opportunity for one of his strikers to run on to, the ball usually ends up in no-man’s land, and the chance’s gone. Credit to the Celtic defender for getting into these positions in the first place, but the effort’s wasted if he can not produce a telling cross. Or perhaps not wasted after all. His forward bursts contribute to building energy among the fans, and energy from the stands can, as history’s so full of proof of, so easily be transfered onto the pitch. For spells, the home side have the West Germans on the back foot. This is clearly aided by the sheer volume of atmosphere created by their fans, who had been somewhat subdued as the visitors had taken the game by the scruff of the neck after falling behind in the first half.
Irish on the front foot
The Republic of Ireland are in the ascendancy for a 15 minute period either side of the hour mark, but they do not work the debutant ‘keeper between the sticks much. Aumann’s first action is when he shows a bit of hesitancy in coming for a cross, whereas a second opportunity to show his aerial abilities tells us that he’s a fast learner. There was absolutely no doubt in his mind when he decided to come for a Townsend ball from the left. On another occasion he picks Galvin’s cross comfortably on the near post, and 15 minutes into his debut there are no signs of nerves in the Bayern ‘keeper’s display. (Pic: Galvin takes on Häßler.) Among his midfielders, though, there seems to be a case of the atmosphere getting to them. Uncharacteristically, both Dorfner and Littbarski will concede possession in or around the centre circle. Little is going right for the visitors at this point. Stealing in for a header on the far post, again after Townsend had lifted the ball in, was Whelan, whose effort had too much air underneath, and so sailed harmlessly over Aumann’s bar. Despite being awkward in a wide right position, Whelan had the knack of getting into dangerous positions. Could the hosts capitalize from this fine period? Big McCarthy goes close from Whelan’s free-kick from the left byline; his header on the near post well over in the end, under pressure from Littbarski of all people.
Strong Irish substitute
Townsend is giving an all-action display in midfield. Along with McGrath, he’s not giving the central West German midfielders an inch. As the second half’s 23 minutes old, Littbarski’s in possession in the centre circle, but immediately he has both Townsend and McGrath snapping at him, and the visiting captain is clearly uncomfortable, having already been on the receiving end of a stiff Irish challenge. The Norwich ace wins the ball and darts forward, highly instrumental as he is in this mini-revival by the home side. Already this half, he’s combined well with both Staunton and Galvin towards the left, and it is this territory he has a tendency to run into when advancing into forward positions. Having found Whelan’s head with an earlier hoisted cross, his technique lets him down on this the next occasion as the ball drifts behind for a goal kick. However, the presence of Townsend in the centre of the park has given Ireland a big lift since his introduction, and the numerical advantage of the visitor’s no longer visible.
Dorfner moves about – at last!
The second half is approaching the half hour point as West Germany midfielder Dorfner makes his first appearance inside the Irish penalty area. The goalscorer had had a quiet second period until then, and must have thought that ‘enough’s enough’. He runs on to a fine ball from Littbarski, and he wins a corner off O’Leary. (Pic: From a later flag kick, as Littbarski prepares to swing one in.) Dorfner had been quite static for most of the match so far, although his strike to cancel out the Irish opener had shown that he had it in him to pose a threat. This was a fine initiative to make it all the way to the byline, and perhaps should he have done it earlier, in order to break up the midfield monotony that had seemed to settle in the West German team after the break? As it were, the ensuing flag kick was resultless, but at least the visitors had been able to move their team higher in the pitch after this lengthy spell of Irish dominance.
This was no match for counter-attacks. Indeed, both sides had adopted a safety first approach, and in particular the home side had been reluctant to let several men trot forward for set-pieces or in open play. However, after a quick free-kick from the Irish left, some unawareness inside the West German penalty area by the home players saw Staunton’s cross headed away by Reinhardt, and Möller was able to pick the ball up about halfway inside his own half, towards the left of the pitch. He left Morris for dead in an impressive burst of pace, and he ran all the way to the other end of the pitch, where his cross towards Wohlfarth was eventually smothered by Bonner on the near post. Astonishingly, Möller had only had the lone striker to aim for, as no other away player had made an effort to get into the box. Even if Bonner had not got to the ball, the full Irish backline would’ve been able to deal with any loose ball.
By this point, Ireland had made a double substitution, with the exhausted Stapleton and Aldridge leaving the pitch to make space for Cascarino and Byrne as the new forward tandem. Stapleton had been stuck in his role just behind Aldridge, and he did not seem as comfortable as when he was playing as an out and out striker. He would let Cascarino take this position for the remaining quarter of an hour, whereas Byrne went into Aldridge’s position.
There is a bit of an altercation with seven minutes left for play, as Augenthaler heads a long ball into the West German penalty area out into dangerous territory, and McGrath is on hand to pick it up. However, Dorfner is also there, and as the ball’s bounced up into the air, McGrath shows his studs as he attempts to gain control of the ball, possibly ramming Dorfner’s leg in the process. The West German goes down clutching his leg, and McGrath sees a yellow for his contribution. There did not seem to be any malice, though Augenthaler saw it differently, as he approached McGrath chest first as if to demonstrate that “you don’t mess with my boys”. The solid Belgian referee quickly intervened and took McGrath away from the situation. In the wake of this, Dorfner leaves the pitch and is replaced by Fach (rather than Uwe Bein, as claimed by the TV producer).
Ireland ram the bar!
Four minutes from time, Whelan comes agonisingly close to winning the match for the home side, as he runs onto a fine pass into the right side of the penalty area by Morris. As Aumann comes out to face him, Whelan proceeds to give the ball a delightful chip, only for it to bounce off the crossbar. It almost drops straight down for substitute Byrne to poke home the rebound, but Littbarski of all people is alert enough to get ahead of the France based forward and clear it out for another Irish corner. Despite Whelan hardly having his best ever international in what was for him far from a prefered wide position, he had arrived at no less than three decent scoring opportunities. Even if few people would argue against Houghton’s position in the team, one could ask whether the player Whelan had replaced out wide would have got himself into the same positions.
Just after a minute of injury time, the referee calls it a day. A minute and a half earlier, Galvin had poked the ball between the legs of Aumann and made sure it trickled into the net, but the whistle had already gone for offside against the veteran winger. He had run onto a flick from Cascarino after a huge punt up field by Bonner, but there was never much doubt about offside being the right decision. The game had a bit of a frantic end to it, but eventually a draw probably gave a fair reflection of events.
The game did seem to follow a bit of an odd pattern, with the home side tearing into the West Germans from the word go, then retracting back into their own half after taking an early lead through Stapleton. The visitors dominate the rest of the first half, and are numerically superior in midfield, where they gain almost total dominance. Stapleton has to fill in to try and help out his midfielders, but the best medicine against West German dominance is taking Brady off for Townsend. The home side are the better team as a whole for the final 45 minutes, and come desperately close to winning it with a few minutes to go as Whelan chips the ball onto the crossbar. Draw still a credible result, though.
It should be pointed out that Ireland’s legendary midfielder Liam Brady decided to call it a day at international level in the wake of this game. Perhaps did some people see his prompt withdrawal once Hans Dorfner had been allowed space enough to equalize as victimization from the Irish management? Brady might have realized, though, that it was a wise decision to hand the legacy over to players with greater physical attributes than himself. He would receive his final send-off the following spring in a home friendly.
REP OF IRELAND:
1 Bonner 7.0
a steady figure throughout, but debatable positioning for the shot which lead to the equalizer? Other than that always comfortable
2 Morris 6.7
3 Staunton 6.8
4 McCarthy 7.1
leads the line by example. Sticks tight to Wohlfarth, never allows the W German striker a sniff. His long throw only utilized on one occasion. Could have scored on the near post from set-piece
5 O’Leary 7.0
6 Brady 6.6
sacrificed as the Irish were overran and outnumbered in midfield. Played his part in the goal, but age was no longer on his side, and he was neither as mobile nor as robust as Charlton would have wished
(14 Townsend 7.3
an excellent addition to a midfield which had been outmanned. So robust; so strong. Certainly lets the visitors know he’s there. Makes fine runs towards the left hand side second half, though his passing lets him down on a couple of occasions)
7 McGrath 6.9
8 Aldridge 5.9
anonymous and awkward, especially in a lone role up front after Stapleton was told to aid his midfielders. No pace, no belief in himself, no threat. Should have been taken off before
(12 Byrne –
stepped into Aldridge’s role with a lot of enthusiasm, and almost got to the rebound after Whelan’s chip had hit the bar)
9 Stapleton 7.2
starts the match like a whirlwind. Puts the Irish ahead when sniffing Häßler’s back pass like a true goalgetter. Runs into channels. Soon given defensive duties, and he’s more than willing to put in a shift for the collective, though Ireland become toothless without him up top
(15 Cascarino -)
10 Whelan 6.9
wide right not his position, but did well to get into scoring positions on three occasions. Not the greatest understanding between him and Morris behind him
11 Galvin 6.6
1 Illgner 6.8
little to do apart from picking the ball out of the net. Substituted at half-time
(12 Aumann 6.9
fine enough debut. Showed signs of nerves initially, but composed himself, and claimed crosses well enough. Perhaps dubiously positioned when Whelan hit the bar late on?)
2 Reuter 6.8
3 Pflügler 6.9
4 Buchwald 6.8
troubles with Stapleton early on, improves, but has a rather pedestrian afternoon for the final 35 minutes of the first half. Substituted for tactical reasons
(13 A Reinhardt 6.9
not a bad half, in which he battles well in the air with both Stapleton and later Cascarino. Comfortable even along the ground, but never tested for pace)
5 Augenthaler 7.0
6 Dorfner 7.1
thrives in and around the centre circle, but shows a couple of runs into Irish territory after the break. Takes his goal really well. Does not seem to have a big change of pace in him. Taken off after a knock
(14 Fach -)
7 Möller 7.1
took added responsibility after the break, but his fine ability to hit a diagonal pass not used frequently enough. Knack of getting into scoring positions, though his workrate could be questioned
8 Thon 6.9
9 Wohlfarth 5.9
an almost impossible job against two big defenders, but doesn’t even seem to make an effort. Anonymous throughout
10 Littbarski 6.6
11 Häßler 6.6