Republic of Ireland earned a hard-fought goalless draw in Sweden to keep their hopes of qualifying for World Cup 2014 aalive ahead of Tuesday’s home clash with Austria.
Much of the talk ahead of the game was about the attacking threat which Sweden possessed in striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic but it was the visitors who provided the early noteworthy moments in front of goal.
Some nice link-up play from skipper Robbie Keane and Marc Wilson gave late-inclusion Jon Walters a headed opportunity at the back post but the Stoke forward couldn’t direct his effort on target. Moments later, Keane found some space inside the box but he failed to make significant contact with James McClean’s out-swinging corner.
James McCarthy, like Walters, was called into the starting line-up at the 11th hour after Glenn Whelan was forced to withdraw through an ankle complaint and it was the Wigan midfielder who carved open the home defence with a perfectly weighted ball for Shane Long. However, after evading the challenge of Andreas Granqvist, the West Brom front man blazed over.
It took 22 minutes for the home side to test David Forde in the Irish goal as an Ibrahimovic knock down found Tobias Hysen but his first-time volley was easily dealt with by the Millwall shot stopper.
Making his first competitive start for the Boys in Green, Forde was called into action again minutes later when Seb Larrson’s in-swinging free-kick evaded everyone but a fine finger-tip save kept it scoreless.
It was a game of few clear-cut chances with the majority of the game being played in midfield area but as the Irish defence kept Ibrahimovic quiet at one end of the pitch, the visitors could have easily snatched a winner. Shane Long’s dangerous cross eluded everyone. Then, Robbie Keane failed to pick out either Walters or Ciaran Clark after Paul Green’s ball over the top of a shaky home back four.
Trapattoni introduced playmaker Wes Hoolahan with 15 minutes remaining but it was the home side who finished strongly. Some late set-pieces tested an Irish rearguard which was solid throughout and Mikael Antonsson forced a fine save from Forde in injury time with a snap-shot from just inside the box.
It was very much a point gained for the Boys in Green but the performance and result won’t mean anything unless three points can follow on Tuesday when Austria are the visitors to Dublin.
Sweden remain eight points behind Germany in Group C, on eight points, with Austria and Ireland a further point back.
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