Liam Lawrence's stunning free kick consigned 2010 FIFA World Cup™ hosts South Africa to their sixth consecutive defeat on Tuesday. The Stoke City midfielder's wonderfully struck first-half effort was the difference between the sides in a competitive friendly at Thomond Park.
While South Africa dominated possession and played some of the more attractive football, they were toothless in front of goal, and couldn't avoid another defeat in their preparations for next summer's finals.
Coach Joel Santana made only one change from the team that lost 2-0 to Germany on Saturday night with Elrio van Heerden replacing Bevan Fransmann. For the hosts, however, it was all change, with Giovanni Trapattoni making an untypical eight changes to the side that defeated Cyprus in their Group 8 qualifier on Saturday night.
Gone were the likes of Robbie Keane, Shay Given, Richard Dunne and the injured John O'Shea, with Keiren Westwood, Andy Keogh, Eddie Nolan and goalscorer Lawrence given the opportunity to impress ahead of next month's vital qualifier against group leaders Italy at Croke Park, Dublin.
South Africa began the brighter creating a chance straight from the kick off when Keith Andrews lost the ball. From a short corner, Morgan Gould flashed a volley over Keiren Westwood's bar. Katlego Mphela fired wildly over soon after while Bernard Parker also had a chance, but mishit when the ball from Steven Pienaar found him free in the Irish box, with the Everton man finding plenty of room to create.
The Irish were denied what appeared to be a clear penalty claim on 13 minutes, when Gould sent Caleb Folan to the ground, and to add injury to insult the Hull striker left the field for ten minutes to receive stitches to a head wound.
South Africa continued to dominate possession but failed to create a clear cut opportunity, and that frustration was shown by Mphela's effort to win a penalty after a good ball from Pienaar. The Everton midfielder was in the thick of things once again when he was booked for handling Lawrence's free-kick on the edge of the box - but he could do nothing about the Stoke player's re-taken effort, and neither could Rowen Fernandez as the ball found the top corner.
Neither side made a change at the break but Ireland looked more comfortable as the second half began. Trapattoni's men passed more convincingly than in the opening period and contained South Africa's attacks more easily, and looked to attack on the break themselves.
Neither side created much until the hour mark, when Ireland burst into life in front of goal, with substitute Leon Best, Folan and then Lawrence all seeing their efforts blocked in a sustained attack.
South Africa had their first attempt of the half after a precision cross by Siboniso Gaxa found substitute Siphiwe Tshabalala, but he diverted his volley wide from close range. St Ledger and Darren O'Dea then combined to halt a double attack from the visitors as they pushed for a leveller, but the well drilled Irish defence held firm to hold out for victory.