Ireland slide to Greece defeat
Jose Holebas ensured Ireland ended 2012 without the victory they craved as Giovanni Trapattoni's youngsters were beaten 1-0 by Greece.
The Italian's experimental side, which featured Ciaran Clark, James McCarthy, James McClean and Robbie Brady from the start and Wes Hoolahan after the break, competed well for long periods, but were unable to carve out the openings to take something from the game.
In front of a sparse crowd at the Aviva Stadium, where they were battered 6-1 by Germany in a World Cup qualifier last month, Ireland showed plenty of endeavour and at times craft, but they could not find the killer touch in front of goal.
As a result, Holebas' sweet 29th-minute strike was enough to win the game for the visitors and leave Trapattoni's detractors with enough ammunition to maintain their opposition to his continued presence at the helm heading into March's crucial World Cup qualifiers against Sweden and Austria.
It all started relatively promisingly for the home side with McCarthy finding space in the middle of the field to feed Brady and McClean on the flanks, and the movement of strikers Shane Long and Simon Cox troubling the Greek defence.
Ireland had strong claims for a first-minute penalty waved away by Israeli referee Eitan Shmuelevitz and defender Konstantinos Stafylidis could consider himself extremely fortunate not to be penalised for his less-than-effective attempt to deal with Stephen Ward's deep cross.
The home side looked certain to take the lead with 10 minutes gone when full-back Seamus Coleman, whose combination with Brady proved a repeated threat, collected the winger's return pass and crossed. Cox had found a yard of space and climbed to meet the ball unopposed, but he was unable to hit the target with just keeper Orestis Karnezis to beat.
However Ireland fell behind when Greece skipper Georgios Samaras, who had earlier had to leave the pitch for treatment to a head wound, turned Konstantinos Mitroglou's pass into the path of Holebas, who span John O'Shea and thumped the ball into the bottom corner.
Long and Clark were both booked for clumsy challenges as the game unfolded in anything but friendly fashion, but the hosts had rather lost their way. They might have levelled in first half injury time when Brady tested Karnezis with a left-foot strike after being set up by Long, but the goalkeeper was equal to the task.
McCarthy almost dragged Ireland back into the game with a long-range shot and Ward hacked a 69th-minute shot harmlessly across the face of goal after the Greeks had failed to clear a McClean free-kick, but Greece coasted to the final whistle and victory with few alarms.