08.09.2007 at 19:30 Slovak Stadium, Bratislava
2 - 2
Republic of Ireland
Referee: Stefano Farina (Italy)
European Cup Qualifier / PROG-match
Sapara (Sebo 71),
Sestak (Obzera 65).
Paul Mc Shane
Aidan Mc Geady
Matej Krajčík 69 mins;
Ján Ďurica 88 mins;
Saturday 8th September
Slovakia 2 Rep of Ireland 2
The Republic of Ireland are still in the hunt for qualification from European Championship Group D but they should have taken grasp of their destiny by closing out the game tonight.
Slovakia ruined Ireland's night by snatching a late equaliser a minute into added time through Cech's low shot. A draw is not fatal to Ireland's bid to make the finals but the manner in which they surrendered the late leveller disappointed all in the camp.
The Irish took lead the twice during the match. Stephen Ireland maintained his rich goal-scoring form by providing a seventh minute opener.
Klimpl restored parity after 37 minutes but a wonder-goal from Kevin Doyle twelve minutes into the second half regained the advantage for the visitors.
Ireland remain nine games unbeaten and morale is still high amongst the squad with Wednesday's crunch match against Czech Republic in Prague now taking on even more significance.
The Czech's won 3-0 in San Marino tonight to open up a three point gap on third placed Ireland in the group. Leaders Germany look certain to clinch top spot in the group - their 2-0 win over Wales in Cardiff keeping them on track for the place at the summit.
Second place is Ireland's aim now and, as Ireland manager Stephen Staunton noted afterwards, anything less in a win in Prague on Wednesday leaves Ireland depending on a bizarre set of results to offer them a lifeline.
Staunton went with an attacking line-up for his starting team which showed two changes to the side which beat the Slovaks 1-0 at home in March. The injured pair of Damien Duff and Steve Finnan made way for Robbie Keane and Stephen Kelly.
Ireland hit the front after only seven minutes, seizing the initiative following a bright opening. Kevin Kilbane crossed from the left to the near post and a neat step-over by Robbie Keane created the space for Stephen Ireland to control the ball and lift it over the goalkeeper from six yards. That was 21-year old Ireland's fourth senior goal in competitive action for his country - a terrific return for a midfield player.
Marek Sapara and Marek Hamsik tested Ireland stopper Shay Given with shots in a lightning burst around the half hour mark but the Newcastle United custodian was equal to both efforts.
Ireland were caught out in the midst of concerted pressure by the Slovaks on 37 minutes. Sapara's corner to the near post was flicked on by Jan Durcia with a spinning header and Marcos Klimpl nodded into the net despite the attentions of Irish defender Paul McShane.
Stephen Staunton must have been pleased to assemble his troops at the break to reinforce the fundamentals of their game-plan. Possession was conceded too cheaply and Ireland needed to work on the basics to regain a foothold on the tie.
That they did early in the second half. Passing was crisp and incisive, the movement was better and most pertinently, they began to trouble the Slovakian defenders similar to the opening ten minutes.
John O'Shea picked out Stephen Ireland's probing run into the box six minute in. The Corkman controlled the pass beautifully and fired a shot with his weaker left-foot which Goalkeeper Senecky had to flap away after flinging himself across goal.
Kevin Doyle went into the game having not found the net so far this season. But the Reading man broke his duck in spectacular fashion to score Ireland's second goal with 57 minutes gone. He skipped past the despairing lunge of Sapara and, from 25-yards, rocketed a left-foot shot high and into the top left corner of the net.
Apart from Shay Given dealing comfortably with Gresko's header from point-blank range 25 minutes from the end, Ireland were never really threatened.
Gresko was busy down the left channel, delivering a centre for Sebo nine minutes from time but McShane's presence put the striker off and his shot blasted high and wide.
McShane's defensive colleague, Richard Dunne, was immense for Ireland in stemming any flow to the strikers but even he was shocked with the concession of a second equaliser as the full-time whistle drew nearer.
A long-ball into Ireland's half was nodded away by Dunne but the ball ran loose to the onrushing Cech and he got there ahead of John O'Shea to bury a low shot hard across the helpless Given and into the Irish net. The strike came a minute into stoppage time.
The Irish fans populated the Slovak stadium, outnumbering the natives, but they were left shell-shocked by the dramatic ending. Wednesday match in Prague provides a platform to quickly boost spirits for the team and supporters alike.
Slovakia: Senecky, Gresko, Cech, Durcia, Klimpl, Krajcik, Hamsik, Sapara (Sebo 71), Mintal, Holosko, Sestak (Obzera 65).
Ireland: Given, O'Shea, McShane, Dunne, Kelly, McGeady (Gibson 61), Ireland (Douglas 76), Carsley, Kilbane, Doyle (Murphy 89), Keane.