O’Shea grabs late draw for Republic

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Published: Tuesday 14th October 2014 by The News Editor

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John O’Shea celebrated his 100th appearance for the Republic of Ireland with a dramatic equaliser to further dent Germany’s Euro 2016 qualification campaign.

The 33-year-old got ahead of Mats Hummels with seconds of the fourth minute of stoppage time remaining at the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen to secure a 1-1 Group D draw with just his third goal for Ireland.

Within seconds, the final whistle sounded and was greeted by boos and whistles from the locals among a crowd of 51,204, who had seen their side dominate for long periods, but fail to kill off game opponents.

Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos looked to have fired the home side to victory when he smashed home a 71st-minute shot off the foot of the post.

But the visitors refused to succumb, even after substitute Wes Hoolahan had himself been denied an 86th-minute equaliser by full-back Erik Durm.

However, the script could hardly have been any more fitting as Sunderland defender O’Shea turned up in the right place at the right time to maintain Ireland’s unbeaten start to their pool campaign.

That they were still in the game at that point was due in large part to the efforts of goalkeeper David Forde, who produced a string of second-half saves, and some typically stubborn defending from O’Shea and his colleagues.

Germany ran out determined to atone for their 2-0 defeat in Poland at the weekend – their first in 34 qualifiers – but they endured a frustrating evening once again despite dominating possession.

Joachim Low’s men have taken just four of the nine points the have contested to date, while Ireland’s haul now stands at an impressive seven.

As a result, they will head into next month’s visit to Scotland brimming with confidence and with their hopes of qualification very much alive.

Manager Martin O’Neill was quick to dismiss talk of a German crisis in the run-up to the game, but his team added to opposite number Low’s frustration with a pugnacious first-half display which saw the visitors head for the dressing room still on level terms and with Forde mercifully untested.

He had sprung something of a surprise, not so much in the identities of the personnel he employed, but in the roles he asked at least two of them to perform with striker Jon Walters once again lining up on the right side of midfield and winger Aiden McGeady playing in the hole behind lone striker Robbie Keane.

It was a system designed both to protect makeshift right-back David Meyler and provide some support to Keane, and while the latter aspect was less evident, the defensive solidity O’Neill required was there in abundance.

The manager had admitted in advance that best-laid plans could be torn up within five minutes, and he was very nearly correct.

Had Durm’s piledriver, which came in the sixth, rather than fifth minute, flown under the crossbar rather than crashed into it, Ireland might have faced a very different prospect.

That it did not helped to preserve belief and while Germany, prompted by the gifted Kroos, who repeatedly picked out Muller, Karim Bellarabi and Gotze with a series of instinctive passes, enjoyed long periods of possession, they rarely threatened to make it count.

Defender Antonio Rudiger headed wide after Muller had turned Kroos’ 14th-minute free-kick back across goal, and Bellarabi could not hit the target from distance after Forde had compounded Marc Wilson’s earlier error with a heavy touch.

But it was not until first-half stoppage time that the Millwall keeper was called upon in earnest, repelling Julian Draxler’s shot at his near post after central defender Hummels and Muller had combined to play him in.

Lukas Podolski replaced Matthias Ginter at the break and very nearly handed the visitors a 49th-minute advantage when Keane picked off his pass and fed McGeady, whose initial shot was blocked before Neuer prevented Keane from connecting with McClean’s follow-up cross.

But the escape simply seemed to spur Germany to greater heights with Forde palming away a deflected Podolski effort and blocking Bellarabi’s shot from an acute angle and then acrobatically tipping Kroos’ dipping attempt over the bar in quick succession.

It was McClean who came to the rescue with 56 minutes gone when he did just enough to prevent Muller from converting Hummels’ flick-on in front of goal with the Republic firmly under the cosh.

Podolski was convinced he should have been awarded a penalty for Wilson’s challenge two minutes later, but Slovenian referee Damir Skomina was not, and he was equally unimpressed when Gotze was muscled off the ball by O’Shea with 69th minutes gone.

However, the stadium erupted two minutes later when Kroos made space for himself on the edge of the box and unleashed a right-foot drive which screamed past the diving Forde and went in off the foot of the post.

Hoolahan might have snatched a point but for Durm, but there was nobody on hand to deny O’Shea, whose contribution sparked mass celebrations on the pitch, the sidelines and in the stands.

Published: Tuesday 14th October 2014 by The News Editor

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