The Republic of Ireland wore a white away shirt while playing at home in what has been an occassional trend and a positive for the marketers. Besides the revelation of the very smart kit; there weren’t many in “green” who were particularly inspired this evening.
First chance came to Robbie Keane who forced a decent save from Cech with a shot just inside the box. Shay Given was then forced into a good save after a defensive error. Shay himself made an error, but recovered sufficiently to make the sort of superb smothering save he is now famous for. Glen Whelan was forced off with a gash to the head; aside from that there was a lot of huff and puff for the remainder of the first half, but very little in the way of end product.
The second half was barely three minutes old, when the visitors took the lead after shocking defending from the home side.
The Irish back four were caught napping with O’Shea and Ward ball watching allowing Milan Baros the freedom of the AVIVA to lift the ball over Shay Given from 15 yards.
The Czechs could have gotten a second on 55 minutes, but a shot from just inside the box flew inches wide of Given’s left hand post with the ‘keeper beaten. 10 minutes after scoring; Baros was substituted as the Czechs clearly wanted to explore their options.
On 63 minutes; substitutes numbers two and three; Hunt and Green came on. This meant that James McLean was destined not to make his debut until considerably later in the game at least. It seemed a bizarre decision as it left one wondering; what is Plan B if we are behind in a game and need to get a goal? With quarter of the game to go, it seemed very unlikely that Ireland would score, moment of genius or stroke of luck aside.
On 70 minutes, Andrews mustered a week shot from 30 plus yards out which was unlikely to trouble Cech.
After another double substitution (Cox and Walters on for Keane and Andrews); Green forced a straightforward save from another 30 yarder.
Ireland had a chance with 15 minutes to go, when O’Dea was sent on a foot race with Cech, but the goalkeeper won that race.
Loudest cheer of the night came when TV monitors showed James McLean being readied for the fray and he finally came on with 12 minutes remaining. Not even Robbie Keane earned a louder applause when being substituted.
Ireland equalised four minutes from time through a combination of an error from the Czechs and the aforementioned moment of genius, under pressure from Andrews, sending Cox through on goal; who proceeded to round his man and pick his spot from an (almost) impossible angle with Cech looming large. Whilst the goal was scored, not quite out of nothing, it certainly wasn’t “coming” either.
From there the game petered out with the Czechs forcing a corner in the last minute. All-in-all; whilst this was a typical tepid Irish performance (can there be any other type under Giovanni Trapatonni?); to score one goal from zero clear cut chances is no mean feat at all!