Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill praised the character shown by his side to salvage a 2-2 draw from their World Cup qualifier against Serbia.
Daryl Murphy came off the bench to equalise with a header in the 80th minute after goals from Serbia’s Filip Kostic and Dusan Tadic – the latter netting from the penalty spot – had cancelled out Jeff Hendrick’s third-minute opener.
Ireland struggled to retain possession on a heavy surface at Red Star Stadium in Belgrade – a pitch inspection was needed pre-match following heavy rain – but O’Neill was full of praise for the way his players “roared back” to secure their first point in World Cup qualifying Group D.
“Eventually, yes, we were happy to come away with a point from here,” said O’Neill.
“We took a very early lead in the game but you would expect them to have a lot of possession, being the home side. The pitch amazingly became very, very boggy rather quickly but we knew they were going to come into the game in the second half and did so.
“We have roared back after conceding the penalty, had a goal disallowed and Shane Long has had a great chance to equalise before Daryl has come up with a great, great goal.
“We deserved a point, without question. This is very, very difficult, playing away from home in a World Cup qualifier.
“The conditions didn’t help but we have not come here expecting to control the game for 90 minutes in an away game against Serbia – that’s lunacy.”
Ireland face Georgia at home and Moldova and Austria away in further qualifiers before the end of the year, and O’Neill expects his squad to gain momentum as their match fitness improves.
“Some of the younger players are coming in here and are very fine players who are going to get fitter as the season goes on,” said O’Neill. “That point there sets us up for next month and hopefully, we are going to drive on.
“This group will have turns and twists, everything you can name between now and qualification time.”
Turning his attention back to the result against Serbia, he added: “You don’t know realise hard it is to come away from home and score twice in such difficult conditions. We have done it brilliantly.”