04.06.2005 at 19:30 Lansdowne Road
Republic of Ireland
2 - 2
Referee: K Vassaras
World Cup Qualifier / Prog-match
Rep of Ireland 2 Israel 2|
Saturday 4th June 2005
Republic of Ireland's qualification chances were dealt a savage blow as they surrendered a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Israel.
The Irish were cruising as goals by Ian Harte and Robbie Keane had them two up inside 11 minutes, but a fine header from Avi Yehiel and controversial penalty from Avi Nimni left them in a state of shock.
Brian Kerr's men threw the kitchen sink at Israel after the break, but were frustrated by a series of wasted chances and their woes were compounded when Andy O'Brien was controversially sent off five minutes from time.
The Irish started at a rate of knots and had a decent penalty claim turned away on three minutes, despite Robbie Keane appearing to be felled in the box.
Kerr's men brushed off the setback and Harte, who was restored to the Irish fold by Kerr, marked his return with a stunning free kick on six minutes.
The former Leeds man curled a superb effort into the top corner from 20 yards to give the Irish the perfect start.
Israel were rocked again five minutes later, as Robbie Keane latched onto a clipped pass from Andy Reid to lift a volley over the keeper to hand Ireland a cushion.
Keane had a goal chalked off on 25 minutes for offside, after keeper Dudu Awate made a fine save from Clinton Morrison, and there was no sign of the drama that was to follow as the Irish were in complete control.
Israel grabbed a lifeline on 39 minutes when Yehiel met a Yossi Benayoun free kick and lifted his header beyond Shay Given from the edge of the box.
Lansdowne Road was stunned into silence right on half time as Israel were awarded a penalty, with John O'Shea penalised for a foul on Benayoun.
At the second attempt, Nimni fired past Given to complete the comeback.
The second half was one-way traffic - with the Irish camped in the Israel half.
Damien Duff contrived to head an effort across goal and into the hands of Awate when it appeared easier to score, while Gary Doherty twice headed wide when well placed.
Awate made a superb save from Duff after he was played in by Morrison, who himself missed a couple of great chances in the final ten minutes as Ireland failed to break down the visitors.
Lansdowne Road saw the best and worst of Awate, as he made some great saves but was also guilty of time wasting.
Worse was to come, though, as he contrived to get O'Brien sent off by appearing to feign injury following a clash with the Newcastle defender.
Ireland attempted to make him pay in a frantic seven minutes of injury time, but they were thwarted and are third in Group 4.
Switzerland moved to the summit of Group 4 with a 3-1 win at Faroe Islands.
The Faroes have failed to come up to scratch in qualifying and they ultimately proved no match for the Swiss on Saturday despite threatening an upset for a moment.
Raphael Wicky set the Swiss on their way with a goal on 25 minutes, but the Faroes rallied and Rogvi Jacobsen drew them level 20 minutes from time.
The goal triggered the Swiss into action and a brace of goals on 73 and 86 minutes from Alexander Frei secured a vital three points for the visitors.
In a group also containing France, Republic of Ireland and Israel, it was imperative the Swiss took the spoils against the minnows
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Given, O' Shea, O'Brien, Cunningham, Harte, Reid (Doherty 64), Holland, Kilbane, Duff, Keane (Kavanagh 27)