ROI have to settle for point
Keane blows two golden opportunities to go home with three points
Last Updated: 13/10/10 8:05am
St Ledger: Scored opener
Republic of Ireland failed to take advantage of the better chances as they were held to a 1-1 draw with Slovakia in Zilina on Tuesday.
Robbie Keane blew the visitors' chances of victory by seeing his penalty saved by Jan Mucha deep into first-half stoppage time, as well as a great opportunity bearing down on goal in the second period.
It would have been a deserved victory for Giovanni Trapattoni's side, who had much the better of the game against what was a subdued Slovakian team who failed to create many significant opportunities.
Sean St Ledger gave the Republic the lead 16 minutes in after latching on to Keith Fahey's excellent free-kick to fire home.
But Slovakia came back with Jan Durica heading home Juraj Kucka's flick on from a corner nine minutes before the interval to leave honours even.
The Republic, however, were then handed a glorious chance to retake the lead when Aiden McGeady was felled by Mucha.
But the goalkeeper made up for his error with a fine save and, as Slovakia dominated the second half, the Republic were left hanging on for a point which keeps them level with their opponents in Group B.
Coach Trapattoni made two enforced changes from the side that lost 3-2 to Russia on Friday, with injury victims Kevin Doyle and Liam Lawrence replaced by Shane Long and Fahey.
All the talk in the build-up to the match had been about the Republic's perceived negative tactics against Russia and their reliance on the long ball.
But they dominated possession in the early stages and, after a couple of scares when Kornel Salata headed over and Kucka shot wide, took a deserved lead in the 16th minute.
Durica fouled Long wide on the right and, when the Slovakia defence failed to deal with Fahey's free-kick, St Ledger squeezed a shot inside the post.
Midfield duo Whelan and Paul Green, who had struggled so badly against Russia, were enjoying a much more productive night, and for the most part the hosts were kept penned in their own half.
The Republic were, though, lucky to escape when Aiden McGeady's mistake allowed Radoslav Zabavnik to drill in a cross that Eric Jendrisek just failed to convert.
Then, in the 36th minute, from the first corner of the game, Slovakia equalised as Hamsik's cross was flicked on for Durica to power a header in off the crossbar.
The Republic arguably should have retaken the lead four minutes later after great work from Long down the right but, stretching, Keane could not get enough of a touch to turn it in.
The visitors were then dealt a blow when Green picked up an injury and had to be replaced by Darron Gibson.
With the half entering injury time, the Republic were presented with a glorious chance to move back ahead when Mucha was adjudged to have brought down McGeady as he ran onto a through-ball from Richard Dunne.
Keane stepped up but his penalty was too close to the keeper, who made up for his mistake in the best possible fashion.
The visitors were almost carved apart in the opening moments of the second half as first Vladimir Weiss and then Hamsik ran through the middle before a vital block from St Ledger averted the danger.
Slovakia had come out with renewed purpose and Shay Given nearly paid the price for taking too long to clear as Stanislav Sestak closed in, with the ball cannoning off the striker but away from goal.
In a reverse of the first half, it was the Republic who were camped in their own half, with Whelan's ambitious volley from 40 yards the sum total of their efforts as the clock reached 65 minutes.
Shortly afterwards, Tomas Hubocan also tried his luck from distance but with much greater purpose, the defender's drilled shot from 25 yards drawing a decent save from Given.
Trapattoni made his first substitution in the 71st minute, bringing on Andy Keogh for Fahey, while his opposite number introduced Stoch and Filip Holosko.
Former Chelsea youngster Stoch immediately looked dangerous and, if there was going to be a winner, it seemed certain to come from the men in white as they continued to dominate.
Holosko headed another Hamsik corner wide while substitute Tomas Oravec failed to make clean contact with a header from 10 yards out.
The Republic had a good chance with five minutes to play when the ball broke to Keane eight yards out but, after turning smartly, the captain could not keep his shot down.It was not to be Keane's night but despite their opportunities, the Republic may look back on this result as very much a point gained.
|Slovakia||Team Statistics||Republic of Ireland|
|1||1st Half Goals||1|
|2||Shots on Target||3|
|10||Shots off Target||4|
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European Championship Qualifying
Tue 12th Oct - Group C
Faroe Islands1 - 1N Ireland
Estonia0 - 1Slovenia
ItalyA - ASerbia
Tue 12th Oct - Group B
Armenia4 - 0Andorra
Slovakia1 - 1Rep Ireland
Macedonia0 - 1Russia
Tue 12th Oct - Group A
Azerbaijan1 - 0Turkey
Kazakhstan0 - 3Germany
Belgium4 - 4Austria
Tue 12th Oct - Group E
Finland1 - 2Hungary
Netherlands4 - 1Sweden
San Marino0 - 2Moldova
Tue 12th Oct - Group F
Latvia1 - 1Georgia
Greece2 - 1Israel
Tue 12th Oct - Group D
Belarus2 - 0Albania
France2 - 0Luxembourg
Tue 12th Oct - Group I
Liechtenstein0 - 2Czech Rep
Scotland2 - 3Spain
Tue 12th Oct - Group H
Denmark2 - 0Cyprus
Iceland1 - 3Portugal
Tue 12th Oct - Group G
Switzerland4 - 1Wales
England0 - 0Montenegro
European Championship Qualifying Group A
European Championship Qualifying Group B
|2||Republic of Ireland||10||21|
European Championship Qualifying Group C
European Championship Qualifying Group D
European Championship Qualifying Group E
European Championship Qualifying Group F
European Championship Qualifying Group G
European Championship Qualifying Group H
European Championship Qualifying Group I