Veteran midfielder Anders Svensson marked his record-equalling 143rd appearance with the winner as the visitors came from behind to leave the hosts' World Cup hopes in tattersRepublic of Ireland's hopes of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup hang by a thread after Giovanni Trapattoni's side suffered a damaging 2-1 defeat to Group C rivals Sweden at the Aviva Stadium on Friday evening.
Robbie Keane's 16th international goal had put the hosts into an early lead after a bright start, but Erik Hamren's side were soon level through Johan Elmander's header. Veteran Anders Svensson then marked his record-equalling 143rd appearance with a second-half strike to secure all three points for his side and enhance their chances of qualification.
The result means the Republic need to win in Austria on Tuesday and away to Germany next month to maintain any faint hopes of qualification, with a further home game against Kazakhstan to follow.
Ireland boss Trapattoni handed Richard Dunne his first competitive start in a green jersey since Euro 2012 and it didn’t take the imposing central defender long to make his presence felt.
Seamus Coleman’s opening-minute set-piece was headed into the path of Shane Long by the QPR defender, before Martin Olsson did brilliantly to deny the hosts by throwing himself in-front of the striker’s goal-bound effort.James McClean came closest to breaking the deadlock when the winger’s attempted cross had Isaksson frantically back-pedalling - the shot stopper’s blushes only spared by the cross-bar.
However, Trapattoni’s side soon got their reward on twenty-one minutes. Long’s flick-on wasn’t dealt with by Mikael Lustig, allowing Keane to nip in and bravely flick past the goalkeeper, and when his initial effort came back off the upright the striker had the composure to pick himself up and fire home.
That was as good as it got for the hosts as going behind galvanised their Scandanavian opponents and altered the flow of the game.
The visitors looked for an instant reply as Elmander’s snapshot tested the handling of Forde before a swift counterattack should have led to the equaliser but Larsson fluffed his lines and headed wide with the goal at his mercy.
Trapattoni’s charges didn’t take notice of the warning signs as Sweden struck level shortly after the half hour mark. Lustig made up for his poor defensive header which led to Keane’s opener by producing an inch-perfect cross for Elmander to head home after getting on front of Dunne.The visitors were in complete control and then went ahead on 56 minutes when Zlatan Ibrahimovic played a one-two with Svensson before the 37-year-old veteran out paced Glenn Whelan to fire past Forde from a tight angle.
Isaksson’s goal was barely threatened in the final stages as Ireland seemed to acknowledge their faith was sealed. Trapattoni’s side now travel to Vienna on Tuesday to face Austria in a must-win game but three points may not even be enough as the Italian's reign as manager heads seems to be entering it's final stages.Germany lead Group C on 19 points after their 3-0 victory over Austria, with Sweden on 14 points in second place. Ireland and Austria are a further three points behind the Swedes with three games to play.