Belfast Telegraph

In Pictures: Argentina spoil Republic's Aviva Stadium opener

Republic of Ireland 0 Argentina 1

August friendlies rarely inspire great memories, but this was intended to be a game and occasion to remember. Wrong.

The match started late, the manager was too ill to attend, the FAI didn't come close to filling the place and Scandinavian officials wrongly awarded the only goal to the opposition. Aviva!

Higuain stood offside from a goalkick, as the rules allow him to, yet when Sergio Romero's punt found the Real Madrid star, he laid off to Angel Di Maria who was in an offside position as he collected before expertly chipping Given.

The frantic protests from the Donegal man brought memories of Paris flashing back, similar to the idiotic decision to prepare the crowd for the team's arrival by playing the Black Eyed Peas song which was on loop during the French celebrations that evening.

It made for a terribly underwhelming international football debut for the new Aviva Stadium, with little trace of the Lansdowne Roar which gave the old venue character, save for the singing section which valiantly tried to rally the masses as an under strength Irish side were outplayed by an Argentine team which only really had to work for their victory in the second half.

Nevertheless, across town in the Mater Hospital, Giovanni Trapattoni won't have been too worried by what he witnessed on an evening where Marco Tardelli led from the touchline. The Argentines are no barometer to judge Ireland's Euro 2012 qualification prospects by, and he will have been encouraged that the newcomers to his plans acquitted themselves reasonably well.

Remember, this time last year, a makeshift Irish side was hammered by Australia in Limerick, a reverse which bore no consequence when the serious business got underway a few weeks later.

Certainly, some encouragement could be drawn from aspects of the display after the interval, with some of the fringe members of the squad making the game more of a contest; although the rhythm was interrupted by a raft of substitutions from both sides.

The unavailability of Trapattoni and a number of his intended starters didn't help the Republic’s cause either.

While the manager was undergoing surgery on his abdominal problems, it emerged that Kevin Doyle had failed a fitness test. So Cillian Sheridan, fresh from an appearance with the U-21s on Tuesday night, was drafted in for the Wolves man due to the lack of striking cover with Caleb Folan, Shane Long and Leon Best on the treatment table — the latter faces three months on the sidelines with ruptured ankle ligaments.

Faced with superior opposition, it was difficult for the hopefuls to make a real impact. Argentina stand-in boss Sergio Batista rolled out some of his many stars, with the three man front line of Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain and Lionel Messi offering a reminder of their prowess.

With Higuain in the centre, Di Maria and Messi were deployed wide, bringing them directly into contact with Paul McShane and Kevin Kilbane respectively. Which should give you a fair idea why they looked so dangerous going forward.

That said, they needed a favour from errant officials to seize a 20th minute lead in a game which started 10 minutes late due to queues outside — even though there was plenty of room inside.

REP OF IRELAND: Given, McShane, Dunne, O'Shea, Kilbane (Cunningham 55); Fahey (Treacy 77), Andrews (Gibson 67), Green, Duff; Sheridan (Keogh 55), Keane

ARGENTINA: Romero, Burdisso (Zabaleta 45), Demichelis, Samuel (Coloccini 83), Heinze (Insua 72); Gago, Mascherano, Banega; Di Maria (Jonas 75), Higuain (Milito 55), Messi (Ezequiel 57)

Referee: Peter Rasmussen (Denmark)

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