Irish take early lead but give away equaliser and miss spot-kick in scrappy contest...The Republic of Ireland and Slovakia are playing catch up with Russia in Group B after sharing the spoils in Zilina. Sean St Ledger gave Ireland an early lead only for Jan Durica to nod home an equaliser in a match where Robbie Keane missed a penalty and a late chance to earn three points for the Boys in Green.
The injured Kevin Doyle was replaced with Shane Long, who made such an impression from the bench against Russia, as both teams looked to make up for defeats on Friday.
Although the game had been moved from Bratislava to Zilina there was a full house in the 12,000 seater arena. The opening exchanges didn't match the cracking atmosphere with Ireland reverting to the long ball game seen in evidence in Dublin a few days earlier.
Slovakia crafted the only real half chance of the early stages as Juraj Kucka sliced a volley wide of Shay Given's goal. It was to be the home side's last opportunity for a while as Ireland entered into a period of dominance.
The Boys in Green took the lead just past the quarter of an hour through St Ledger. A year on from his last international goal the defender capitalised on a superb Keith Fahey dead ball and eluded his marker to slot home from close range.
Ireland seized the advantage and looked to make it two. The impressive Fahey forced a save from Jan Mucha with an acrobatic volley while Robbie Keane angled a first time drive just shy of the post.
Giovanni Trapattoni's team were on top but then, as so often in the past, they squandered their lead. Durica nodded home the equaliser from a Marek Hamsik corner. His header thundered off the bar and rebounded in.
A pulsating last few minutes saw Robbie Keane go agonisingly close with a close range volley and a late penalty for the visitors. Aidan McGeady earned the spot-kick after being tripped by goalkeeper Mucha who earned a booking.
Mucha was soon the hero as he correctly guessed the direction of Keane's shot to make an instinctive save and it was all square at the break.
Having escaped going in a goal down Slovakia began the second half with intent as Hamsik showed his range of skills. Ireland's best chances inevitably came from set-pieces with Fahey always a danger when presented with one.
Long enjoyed a fierce battle with Durica and the forward offered some hope for the Irish up front in a scrappy second half. As the game wore on clear cut chances were increasingly more difficult to come by. Time wasting tactics were being used as early as just past the hour mark.
Tomas Hubocan forced Given into a body save with an optimistic strike from distance. Vladimir Weiss rang the changes bringing on Filip Holosko and Miroslav Stoch for the latter stages.
Irish substitute Darron Gibson wasted a good chance as he delayed taking his shot as he raced clear on goal and when he did pull the trigger his strike was well blocked. Last ditch defending from John O'Shea spared Ireland from going a goal behind as the Manchester United player diverted a near certain goal with a leaping header inside the box.
With the match drifting towards a draw the Irish were presented with a late chance to steal the three points and it fell to Robbie Keane. The Tottenham forwarded did the hard part by controlling the ball superbly and evading his marker only to blaze the ball over from barely six yards out.
A draw was the predictable conclusion as Ireland extended their unbeaten run in away competitive games to nine matches. Both teams are now playing catch up behind Russia who had earlier beaten Macedonia.
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