Sweden were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw at home to the Republic of Ireland in 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying in Stockholm on Friday.
It was a result which the Irish would have taken before kick off but there was a feeling that Giovanni Trapattoni’s men could have come away from this Group C qualifier with more than a point.
However, the hard-fought goalless draw means Ireland’s hopes of qualifying for the 2014 tournament in Brazil are still alive 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 could not direct his effort on target.
Moments later, Keane found some space inside the box but he was unable to connect w
ith James McClean’s out-swinging corner.
James McCarthy, like Walters, was called into the starting line-up at the eleventh hour after Glenn Whelan was forced to withdraw through an ankle complaint.
It was the Wigan midfielder who carved open the home defence with a perfectly weighted ball for Shane Long but, after evading the challenge of Andreas Granqvist, the West Bromwich Albion front man blazed over.
It took 22 minutes for the home side to test David Forde in the Irish goal as Ibrahimovic’s 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 Ireland, Forde was called into action again minutes later when Sebastian Larsson’s in-swinging free-kick evaded everyone but a fine finger-tip save kept it score-less.
It was a game of few clear cut chances, with the majority of the game being played in midfield, but, as the Irish defence kept Ibrahimovic quiet at one end of the pitch, the visitors could have easily snatched a winner.
Long’s dangerous cross eluded everyone before 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 play-maker Wes Hoolahan with fifteen minutes remaining but it was the home side who finished strongly. Some late set-pieces tested an Irish rear guard 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 Ireland but the performance and result will not mean anything unless three points can follow on Tuesday when Austria are the visitors to Dublin.
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