Ireland drew with Italy 1-1 Wednesday night in rain-soaked Bari.

The first dramatic event of the evening's action came from the referee, who dismissed Italy striker Pazzini for elbowing John O’Shea after three minutes.

The elbow drew blood from head of  the Manchester United defender, and the ref produced a straight red card to reduce the Italians to ten men.

However, it was Italy who drew first blood on the scoreboard in the 10th minute, when Juventus forward Iaquinta scored from close range.

The move was started by Pirlo, who chipped forward to the onrushing Grosso. The Lyon defender looked up and squared for an unmarked Iaquinta to open the scoring for the Azzuri.

The ten men in blue clammed up after scoring, and Ireland began to dominate possession. Stephen Hunt was everywhere for the Irish and tormented the Italians with his direct running.

 

In the 40th minute the Reading winger's stinging volley was expertly tipped over the bar by the Italian keeper

The second half saw the Irish attack en force, but they were unable to break down the World Champions until the final minutes.

A long ball up from the back broke to Robbie Keane in the 87th, and the Spurs man clinically finished into the bottom corner.

To their credit, Ireland never gave up, and produced their best performance since the Group started.

Noel Hunt almost stole it for the Irish in the end to take the three points, but he missed the opening and the match ended 1-1.

After tonight's result, Italy remain two points clear at the top of  Group 8, but Giovanni Trappatoni's men have more than made up for Saturday's disappointment with this impressive result away from home against the World Champions.