Trapattoni: Cat nearly in the bag
Giovanni Trapattoni was keeping his feet firmly on the ground despite seeing the Republic of Ireland power their way to a 4-0 Euro 2012 lead in Estonia.
The Italian will send his side out to complete the job at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday night with opposite number Tarmo Ruutli missing first-choice keeper Sergei Pareiko and central defenders Raio Piiroja and Andrei Stepanov through suspension after a disastrous night at the A Le Coq Arena.
However, Trapattoni will not be satisfied until the job is complete.
He said: "The cat is in the sack, but the sack is not closed. The cat is in it, but it’s open – and it’s a wild cat.”
However, the 72-year-old Italian could hardly have been more delighted with the way his players blasted their way towards what seems a certain qualification in Dublin.
He said: "In my opinion, we deserved to win. Maybe we were helped after the first goal by the sending-off – at 11 v 10, we had more opportunities to score goals.
"But we have to have respect for our opponents for what they have achieved in this qualification campaign.
"At this moment, we are near qualifying at 4-0. But I repeat the same sentence: don’t jump the gun.”
While everything that could have gone right did go right for Ireland, who have endured more than their fair share of play-off misery over the years, Estonia’s fortunes were in sharp contrast.
Trailing 1-0 to Keith Andrews’ 13th minute header, their hopes were dealt a further blow 11 minutes before the break when central defender Stepanov, who had earlier been booked for a foul on Aiden McGeady, was cautioned for a second time after bringing down Keane.
Jonathan Walters doubled the Republic’s advantage with a 67th minute header and Keane made it 3-0 with a close-range finish after keeper Pareiko had blocked Andrews’ free-kick with his legs.
Skipper Piiroja was booked for the trip which led to the free-kick, and when he handled 13 minutes from time, he too saw red as Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai incurred the wrath of he home supporters.
The official still had time to slip further in the estimation of the locals when he awarded a penalty for Ats Purje’s 87th minute trip on fellow substitute Stephen Hunt, and Keane duly obliged to take his international tally to 53 goals.
Ireland are now just 90 minutes away from ending their 10-year wait to qualify for the finals of a major tournament, an achievement which would bring a minimum of around 8million Euros into the Football Association of Ireland’s coffers.
Trapattoni said: "I have been many times at the edge of a cliff. I know these situations. I have been to many big tournaments and matches like this are what I call top level matches.
"But it’s not necessarily important to achieve one objective, we have to focus on what comes next.
"This is my law. I never look back, I always look forward.”
Estonia boss Tarmo Ruutli was in sombre mood as he conducted his post-match press conference.
Asked if the tie was over, he said simply: "Almost.”
Asked further about the role the referee’s decisions had played in the game, he
said: "Of course they played some part in the result, but the first two goals, they were our problem, not the referee’s problem.”