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Ireland 'in safe hands' with Westwood
Published : 16 Aug 2012 06:47:10
Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni believes Kieren Westwood is a man the team can trust to carry the country beyond the Shay Given era.
Given stunned all within the Republic camp on Monday when he announced his retirement from international football after winning a record 125 caps over a 16-year period. The onus has now fallen on Sunderland goalkeeper Westwood and he did not disappoint in winning his 11th cap against Serbia.
Trapattoni said: "This was a particular moment for him after the news about Shay. I was sure he could be a substitute for Shay and he showed us in this game we can trust him."
Westwood could not have asked any more with such responsibility on his shoulders than a clean sheet, and he achieved that from a goalless draw with Serbia at Belgrade's Red Star Stadium.
Most notably there were two important saves either side of the half-time interval, the first from Manchester City defender Aleksandar Kolarov. From 25 yards Kolarov's shot took a slight deflection, but the 27-year-old Westwood managed to adjust himself well as he made a smart save low to his right.
His best was yet to come, however, as in the 71st minute he was at full stretch in turning away to his left a low 20-yard free-kick from Zdravko Kuzmanovic. It guaranteed Ireland a deserved draw.
Wednesday's starting line-up was very different to the one that took to the field in the final group game against Italy in Euro 2012. The only survivors from a 2-0 defeat were John O'Shea, serving as captain for the first time, Aiden McGeady and Glenn Whelan. Trapattoni also fielded a different formation, straying from his often rigidly deployed 4-4-2.
He was happy enough with the display and said: "This was a good result for us because we have young players, and also players not in condition. It was a good result against a good Serbia team that knows each other well and are used to playing well together."
After his debut as skipper Sunderland defender O'Shea said: "We needed to get that (the Euros) out of our system. This was always going to be a difficult place to come to, Serbia away, and playing with a newish system and with some new lads.
"But I thought James McCarthy was fantastic, coming in and doing a great job, and James McClean as well playing in an unfamiliar position. We were quite comfortable in the game, and we caused them some early problems, although we would have liked to have created a few more clear-cut chances."