Andy Keogh's goal marked the beginning of what Irish fans hope will be a renaissance in fortunes under new coach Giovanni Trapattoni following their 1-1 draw with Serbia on Saturday night.
There was not a lot for the faithful to cheer about at Croke Park however.
The Italian's new era was marked by a selection which included debutantes Glenn Whelan in midfield and Damien Delaney at left back.
Trapattoni's influence was obvious from the start as the generally direct style traditionally deployed by the Irish was nowhere in evidence. Instead the ball was worked along the deck from the back with balls into the strikers' feet in attack.
After a dull opening in which Serbia looked more comfortable with the benefit of an extra man in midfield, Robbie Keane came close to opening the scoring.
Damien Duff created space for himself to sweep in a cross which Vladimir Stojkovic flapped at. The the ball fell to Keane but Slobodan Rajkovic swept the ball off the line.
Stefan Babovic then had two opportunities at the other end. One he worked for himself and the other when he was played in but he finished badly on both occasions under pressure from Delaney, who made a confident start to his international career.
The match had an end-of-season feel in terms of quality but there were enough firm challenges to maintain a competitive edge – Damien Duff attracting most of them.
But despite a decent corner count for both teams the game sorely lacked goal mouth action.
An early foray in the second half for Serbia saw veteran goalkeeper Dean Kiely, who came out of international retirement at Trapattoni's request, causing confusion by scampering off his goal line.
Stoikovic did something similar moments later when coming too far for a looping freekick from the left.
And that was about as exciting as it got until a firm right-footed strike by Jankovic from outside the box on 70 minutes – the Serbs' first shot on target in the second half – which Kiely gathered easily.
Serbia's second on-target effort ended up in the net. A long ball over the top saw McShane push up for no good reason leaving a huge hole in the middle of the Irish defence. Substitute Marco Pantelic latched on to what should have been a harmless ball to slot coolly past Kiely.
Ireland pressed with more direct football towards the end and good play by substitutes Darryl Murphy and Andy Keogh saw a last-gasp challenge deny the latter a shooting chance.
A minute into injury time, the pair combined in similar circumstances this time with success. A long throw from the right was nodded on by Murphy and Keogh smashed into the net with a volley from 10 yards.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!