Euro 2012 qual. - Keane flops in Ireland draw

Tue, 12 Oct 21:30:00 2010

Robbie Keane missed a penalty for the Republic of Ireland as they had to settle for a 1-1 draw in Zilna against Slovakia.

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Most of the drama happened in the first-half as Sean St Ledger swept home the opener for Ireland after just 16th minutes only for Slovakia to level with a Jan Durica header in the 36th minute.

Just before the break Keane had the perfect chance to give Ireland the lead from the spot after Jan Mucha  brought down Aiden McGeady down in the box but the Everton reserve keeper made amends by pushing Keane's effort away.

Keane then created another great chance for himself just four minutes from time, but he blasted it over the bar as Ireland had to be content with a point in a momentum shifting game that could have gone either way.

The big winners on the night were Ireland and Slovakia's Group B rivals Russia and Armenia who enjoyed wins over Macedonia and Andorra respectively.

Ireland were the better side in the first half and really sparked into life after taking the lead in the 16th minute.

That goal came when a Keith Fahey free kick on the right caused pandemonium in the Slovakia box. The hosts couldn't clear the danger and the ball fell to the feet of St Ledger who managed to fire low into the net amongst the chaos for his second goal in an Irish shirt.

Giovanni Trapattoni's side then played the rest of the half with the type of confidence and conviction they showed in the last 20 minutes of their clash with Russia last Friday and not the confused bewilderment they exhibited in the first 70 minutes of that 3-2 defeat.

However, despite bossing proceedings, they were not creating clear cut chances and they then allowed Slovakia to equalise against the run of play in the 36th minute.

That goal also came for a set play. Captain Marek Hamsik whipped in a great corner which Juraj Kucka then flicked on at the near post; Durica then ran in at the back post to put an unstoppable header into the roof of the net.

Ireland refused to let that goal affect them too much and Keane very nearly got on the end of a superb low cross from Shane Long just four minutes later.

However, Keane's great chance would come just before the break from the spot although it was a contentious penalty in the first place.

Radoslav Zabavník and Mucha let McGeady skip in behind them and get to long ball first and the Spartak Moscow winger then kicked the ball over the outrushing Mucha. The keeper looked to get a bit of the ball before clashing into McGeady but it was still clumsy given that McGeady was wide in the box and running out of space.

Mucha made amends though. After some gamesmanship where he made Keane wait before taking the penalty, he then made a fine save to push the Tottenham striker's effort away. It wasn't a terrible penalty but it was hit at the right height for Mucha to save.

The second-half belonged more to Slovakia, although like when Ireland were dominating in the first, they struggled to create clear cut opportunities.

Shay Given did have to make one fine save when Tomas Hubocan's brilliant long range effort bounced up just before reaching his goal, and substitute Tomas Oravec put a header just wide in the 84th minute, but once again the best chance was to fall at the other end and to Keane.

It came just four minutes from the end when Kevin Kilbane drilled in a low cross. To be fair to Keane, he controlled the ball superbly and then dropped the shoulder to make room for a shot. All the hard stuff was executed to perfection, but he then blazed the shot over when composure was needed.

A draw was a fair result given the nature of the game, but Ireland could look back on this fixture as two points dropped as opposed to one point gained.

Seán Fay / Eurosport

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