REPUBLIC OF IRELAND - 0
SLOVAKIA - 0
Robbie Keane must have left his scoring sights in America – the LA Galaxy striker missed a glorious opportunity to head Ireland ever closer to the European Championships as Slovakia took a point home from Dublin.
A fortnight after his shock move to the MLS, Ireland’s record goalscorer missed the sort of chance that should be bread and butter to a player with 51 international goals to his credit.
The big miss arrived in the 74th minute of a game Ireland really had to win ahead of Tuesday night’s difficult trip to play Group B leaders Russia in Moscow.
A trademark cross from his long time ally Damien Duff found Keane unmarked and just six yards out from Jan Mucha’s goal.
The rise was majestic from Keane, the header misguided as the ball flew over the Slovakian crossbar. It was the chance of a lifetime, a chance that went abegging.
Just 16 minutes later, Ireland left the field to a chorus of boos after the scoreless draw.
It might have been so different if Keane had scored or if substitute Simon Cox had done better when his captain set him up six minutes from time.
Cox had time to take the ball down inside the Slovak box but his left footed effort went wide – with Keith Andrews screaming for the ball inside him.
The angst was audible in an Aviva Stadium that was far from full and it was little wonder that the visitors celebrated this result as the home support wondered how Trapattoni can pick this up in Russia on Tuesday.
Slovakia’s noisy fans had plenty to shout about on a night when their side were the dominant partner for so much of this tense and nervy encounter as ‘keeper Mucha denied Duff with a fine 38th minute save.
Keane’s poor header aside, the visitors had the best of the chances and probably deserved to score at least once.
Shay Given was alert enough to deny an Holosko effort midway through the first-half as the Irish ‘keeper tipped the ball around his post at the expense of a corner.
Stephen Ward, impressive on his competitive debut, then came to Ireland’s rescue when he blocked a rocket shot from man of the match Vladimir Weiss 11 minutes into the second-half.
The real let-off for Trapattoni’s team arrived just after the hour mark when striker Holosko got in behind Richard Dunne to tee up Hamsik but the Italian based schemer’s shot cannoned off the body of Sean St Ledger.
A subsequent yellow card means St Ledger will miss Tuesday’s game in Russia. That mightn’t be such a bad thing on this evidence.
Rep of Ireland: Given; O’Shea, Dunne, St Ledger, Ward; Duff, Whelan, Andrews, McGeady; Doyle, Keane. Subs.- Cox for Doyle 64 mins; Hunt for McGeady 84 mins;
Slovakia: Mucha, Pekarik, Skrtel, Durica, Cech, Weiss, Karhan, Stoch, Hamsik, Kucka, Holosko. Subs.- Guede for Kucka 76 mins; Jendrisek for Weiss 85 mins; Vittek for Holosko 87 mins.
Referee: Pedro Garcia, Portugal.