If Ireland wanted to erase the memory of the abject performance in the first half against Russia, which ended in a 3-2 defeat, they’ll have to do better than this. 1-0- up for most of the half, thanks to an opportunist’s goal from Sean St Ledger, an equalizer from a perfect Slovakia corner ended in a bullet header by Durica and leaves Ireland with 45 minutes to find the killer instinct. And then Robbie Keane showed his lack of confidence by missing a penalty just before the half-time whistle. Ireland have 10 minutes to buy a killer instinct. Time for Trap to justify his enormous FAI salary.
Eight minutes into the game, the need for Ireland to win this one became apparent. Russia went 1-0 up against Macedonia and taking firm control of the group.
Slovakia were muscular early on and found space, but their shooting was wayward and Ireland looked the more likely to score.
And on 16 minutes, defender Sean St Ledger popped up with an that goal. A free from Fahey and the Slovak defense was all fingers and thumbs. It dropped to St Ledger who hammered it into the bottom left hand corner.
In the subsequent minutes, Ireland looked likely to double their lead as Slovakia’s confidence shuddered. But, as the minutes ticked on, Trap’s team’s conservative nature, their lack of a killer instinct, reasserted itself. Lovely passages of passing and possession-retention, but no incision in the final third. Slovakia, a boxer on the ropes, recovered and found their composure. Sloppy Irish defending let them get a shot or two on target, further bolstered that confidence.
A corner whipped in on 36 minutes finds Daritza’s head and Glenn Whelan can’t stop him – rocket to the back of the net and Trap’s men suffer again for their complacency.
The endeavor was there – on 40 minutes, Shane Long whipped in a slide-rule pass across the face of goal. Should have been 2-1 to Ireland but Robbie Keane couldn’t get his toe to it.
Keane fluffed another, unforgivable opportunity seconds before half time. The Slovak keeper was unlucky to be pinged for taking the striker down in the box but the Dubliner, admittedly facing into a wall of Slovak hostility on the terraces, tapped a tame effort towards goal, which was easily saved.
Ireland need to find a ruthless streak or face heartbreak again.