After two winless (albeit difficult!) friendlies against Yugoslavia and Argentina, Luis Suárez suddenly changed formation before the Ireland game and also introduced two new players to the team.
From a 4-4-2, which Miguel Muñoz also had favoured, Luis Suárez now converted to a 5-3-2. Sociedad’s Górriz was given his debut in the Spanish central defence, along with Manuel Sanchís and libero Andrinúa. There had been discussions about who should play as full backs, and here the manager perhaps surprisingly left out new Barcelona signing López Rekarte and chose Jiménez on the left back and Quique Flores on the right. The midfield was also given a face lift: Míchel continued in a deep midfield role, but this time with both Roberto and Martín Vázquez in central roles. The second debutant was the striker Manolo, who got the nod ahead of Julio Salinas: this meant two speedy strikers for Spain.
Ireland were plagued with injuries. Charlton had to do without both Paul McGrath, Ronnie Whelan and Kevin Sheedy. To replace McGrath, Charlton moved Kevin Moran into midfield, and notably called upon David O’Leary to take place in central defence. Charlton and O’Leary had not been on good terms for more than two years, and this was O’Leary’s first start for the national team since 1986. Whelan was replaced by John Sheridan: a similar kind of player, but a lot less experienced in international football than Whelan.
Today’s referee is 42 year old Soviet citizen Yuri Savchenko. This is his first ever qualification tie, and his only previous experience of handling an international fixture was when he had refereed the friendly between West Germany and Spain (2-2) in October ’86.
|1 Andoni Zubizarreta
|2 Quique Flores
|3 Manuel Jiménez
|4 Genar Andrinúa
|5 Manuel Sanchís
|6 Alberto Górriz
|9 Emilio Butragueño (c)
|11 Martín Vázquez
|12 Jesús Ángel Solana
|13 Juan Carlos Ablanedo
|14 ‘Patxi’ Ferreira
|15 Ramón Vázquez García
|16 ‘Txiki’ Begiristain
Rep of Ireland (4-4-2)
|1 Packie Bonner
|2 Chris Morris
|3 Steve Staunton
|4 Mick McCarthy
|5 David O’Leary
|6 John Sheridan
|7 Kevin Moran (c)
|8 Ray Houghton
|9 John Aldridge
|10 Tony Cascarino
|11 Tony Galvin
|12 Frank Stapleton
|13 Niall Quinn
|14 John Anderson
|15 Liam O’Brien
|16 Gerry Peyton
Up against physically strong opponents, Luis Suárez picked a 5-3-2 formation with a dynamic midfield trio to try and outwit the Irish central duo of Moran and Sheridan. Míchel would sit deep and direct the Spanish attacks, with Roberto and Martín Vázquez representing the legs. The Spanish would try their utmost to cope with the extreme aerial threat of Cascarino, and in Sanchís and libero Andrinúa they had players capable of competing against the big Millwall man. Debutant Górriz was handed Aldridge. The Spanish full-backs were supposed to both look after an Irish wide man as well as crossing the halfway line in order to assist by going forward. Quique would face a much more outright winger in Galvin than Jiménez would in Houghton, who was never shy of coming inside from his wide right position. Manolo up front would try and stretch the combative Irish centre halfs through his strong running, with Butragueño usually occupying a central role.
After a somewhat mundane first half, Suárez decided to change his formation for the start of the second half: Quique Flores was put in a more advanced role on the right hand side of midfield, with Górriz taking up the full-back position behind him. This left Andrinúa and Sanchís to deal with the two Irish forwards, whilst Jiménez found support in the now wide-left operating Martín Vázquez down his corridor. Míchel and Roberto were left to their own devices in central midfield. In this area of the pitch, Jackie Charlton had put Moran to try and perform as a shield in front of his central defenders, to try and compensate for the fact that they were missing vital players. It only worked so-so. In their 4-4-2 formation second half, the Spanish proved too dynamic and strong for the visitors, and eventually ran out deserved winners.
The main question before this game was how the Spanish midfield would work. There was no longer any obvious ball winning midfielder in the mould of Víctor in the team, and instead Luis Suárez would have to rely on the work rate of Míchel, Roberto and Martín Vázquez. There was at least no sign that Spain had become vulnerable defensively with this new composition. And Míchel seemed to thrive in his role as a regista, playing a very central role in everything Spain did and constantly supplied with the ball by his defence. In front of Míchel, Martín Vázquez and Roberto had licence to roam forward, and they were useful in making runs off the ball that were difficult for the Irish to pick up. The midfield had the shape of a V.
Manuel Sanchís had arguably been the stand-out player in Spain’s Euro 1988, where he often would bring the ball out of defence and into the opposition’s half. But here he was happy to let Míchel do this. Sanchís was a lot more quiet in this game, focusing on his duties in defence, where he had the task of man-marking Tony Cascarino. The Millwall striker could be hard to beat in the air, but Sanchís again proved to be a fearless defender. The duel between the two in-form players was one of the highlights of the game. Górriz, who was making his debut, had a more quiet night in central defence, but usually took care of what came his and (Aldridge’s) way.
As mentioned, Spain’s play in the friendlies had lacked width. This time they lined up in a 5-3-2, with full-backs Quique Flores and Jiménez as the only wide players. Luis Suárez would probably have preferred to see them venture more forward than had been the case in the first half, even though Quique Flores had a few forward runs that were useful. Spain also failed to find the two strikers with their face to goal: Too often they were both playing with their backs towards goal against an Irish back line that defended deep. Both Butragueño and Manolo are quick attackers, but their operating space was very limited during the first half.
H-t. Not too much difference between the two sides during the first half. It became clear that the Spaniards had not quite found their shape yet.
Luis Suárez made one tactical change at half time: Deciding that five at the back was too cautious, he reverted to 4-4-2. Quique Flores, who had been the more active of the two full-backs, moved forward into right midfield, pushing Górriz out to right back. Left midfield was taken by Martín Vázquez.
The second half started much like the first had ended, but the game abruptly changed with the opening goal of the game in the 53rd minute of play. In a manner typical of the game, Roberto and Martín Vázquez were the driving forces behind the Spanish attack, this time nicely exploiting unusual amounts of space that had manifested in the Irish team. Roberto found Martín Vázquez in vast acres of space on the left hand side (his new position after the break), and the Real Madrid man passed the ball on to Manolo alone with Packie Bonner, making it 1-0 to Spain. Credit must also be given to Míchel who had started the attack by an almost intuitive pass to Roberto.
Generally, Spain looked far more dangerous in this half, as they started to threaten the Irish full-backs. Martín Vázquez had been mentioned, and on the opposite side Quique Flores and Míchel contributed to giving the inexperienced Steve Staunton a difficult time. The half time change had done Spain good. With Míchel more and more seeking his favoured right hand side, Roberto now took control of the centre midfield almost single-handedly: a responsibility he took good care of. Neither Sheridan nor Moran posed any threat to that space. As the half proceeded and Spain held on to their lead, they looked to have found their shape. The inclusion of wide players had made them more unpredictable, where they looked static in the first half with the three central players in midfield. 2-0 followed shortly after, on 65 minutes. Again Spain challenged Staunton from their right hand side, as Quique Flores made it past the Liverpool full back and crossed the ball for Butragueño, who finished with aplomb on the far post.
Spain had lost Bakero with injury before this game. His replacement, Ramón, a similar type of player, was given the chance midway through the second half. Ramón did of course play for the other team in town, but was given a good reception by the home crowd this night.
The Republic never looked like staging a comeback. Niall Quinn came on for Aldridge at 1-0, but Charlton’s game plan of not conceding had been undone. Their best spell of the game came in the last ten minutes of play, shortly after Liam O’Brien had entered the field. But at this point Spain looked confident of having secured the two points. The Spanish showed their emphasize to first win the battle and then later to outplay the Irish when they were on top in the first half an hour of the second half. Sure, la Roja can play but they also have the necessary physique to deal with sturdy sides like the Irish.
1 Zubizarreta 6.6
Not much to do. Generally confident, but could at one occasion have done better in punching the ball.
2 Quique Flores 7.1
Had some trouble with Galvin in the first half. Quite positive when moved upfield after the break. Assisted for 2-0.
(12 Solana –
Got the final few minutes for Quique wide right. Had time to trouble Staunton once.)
3 Jiménez 7.0
Mainly focused on defensive responsibilites, where he is very, very solid. Also combined well with Vázquez during the second half.
4 Andrinúa 7.6
Very effective in the air with some towering headers. Absolutely no fear and a huge presence at the back.
5 Manuel Sanchís 6.9
Not as dominant as in the Euros. Clearly instructed to feed the ball to Míchel.
6 Górriz 6.9
Not as interested in the ball as the other Spanish defenders. Did well to handle Galvin in the second half.
7 Manolo 7.3
Made a lot of good runs off the ball, especially when finding space in behind the Irish defence. Was replaced in a phase where he could have been a very dangerous weapon for Spain.
(15 Ramón –
A more typical centre forward and a lot less of a direct threat than Manolo. Offers strength in the air, but finds it hard against solid Irish centrebacks.)
8 Míchel 7.9
A giant. Has it all: technique, distributing ability, strength and a great shot. Completely bosses the midfield from his deep role.
9 Butragueño 7.1
A very fine performance by the captain, which he caps with the conclusive goal. Shows good strength and awareness.
10 Roberto 6.9
Outshone by Míchel, but not at all a bad game. Helps the home side dominate the midfield area.
11 Martín Vázquez 7.1
His close control sometimes beggars belief. Probably more efficient out wide in the second half than he was in a central capacity before the break. Good run and assist for 1-0.
REP. OF IRELAND:
1 Bonner 7.1
Has a couple of fine saves, in particular from Quique’s close range effort. Also assures his defenders with his composure.
2 Morris 6.8
Usually steady defensively, however there could be questions asked about his positioning for the opening goal. Contributes little going forward.
3 Staunton 6.2
The teenager did well initially, but found it very difficult after the break when Spain upped the ante down his side. Time and again taken advantage of.
4 McCarthy 6.7
The man with the huge throw knows how to defend. Takes no prisoners, but is up against some top class forwards. Still holds his own.
5 O’Leary 7.0
The best of the Irish defenders, and it will have been a big bonus for Charlton to have him back in the side after such a lengthy absence. Wins headers, plays a lot of direct balls for his forwards to chase.
6 Sheridan 6.3
Is never able to get any kind of grip in midfield. Has two rather tame efforts on goal from long range.
(15 O’Brien –
Gets a few minutes towards the end where the Irish are in possession a lot, but can’t stamp his authority on the remainder of the tie.)
7 Moran 6.2
Clearly shows he is no midfielder. Is brave and courageous, but lacks skill to play in this position. The Spanish central midfield at times runs in rings around him.
8 Houghton 6.7
He shows his great engine towards the latter stages of the game, but is mostly inefficient due to Jiménez’ solid defensive display. Lets frustration get the better of him when he hacks down the Spanish left back midway through the second half.
9 Aldridge 6.0
Full of running, but enthusiasm alone was never going to give him his first international goal. Kept in check by Górriz in the first half, no threat after the break and taken off.
(13 Quinn 6.5
Comes on and does win a few headers and battles well, but Spain are soon after his arrival two up, and it becomes a struggle for him to make an impact.)
10 Cascarino 6.8
Another very workmanlike performance from the Irish. Far more exuberant than his starting partner Aldridge, but little luck on goal despite his decent control along the ground and effort. Finds it hard to win headers against a robust Spanish backline.
11 Galvin 6.9
His first half was probably the best of the Irish lot, when he at times gave Quique a difficult time. Swung a few decent crosses in. Struggled second half when the defensively so sound Górriz was put at right back to handle him.