Centurion John O’Shea strikes late for Ireland in Germany

Sunderland defender scores last-gasp equaliser against world champions in 100th international

 

Germany 1 Republic of Ireland 1

It seemed too much to ask for that Ireland might come to Germany’s old mining capital and somehow dig out a result but Martin O’Neill’s side did just that in the most dramatic of fashion, with John O’Shea grabbing his third international goal on his 100th appearance to earn the visitors a precious point in a group that has veered wildly off script at this stage.

A crowd that had celebrated their team’s summer triumph before this game started, briefly booed them at the final whistle which followed the Irish defender’s remarkable finish within a matter of seconds.

Ireland were lucky at times but they did much to forge their good fortune with a determined and energetic performance against a clearly stronger team. The Germans enjoyed the lion’s share of the possession and by far the better of the goal-scoring chances but, as they had in Poland, they struggled to make much of them. Ultimately, they left the field frustrated and downcast, their post World Cup hangover extended. On the pitch and in the stands, those Irish present were united in celebration.

Both managers sprang surprises before kick-off with their team selections, Joachim Löw opting to play an additional centre-half, Matthias Ginter, alongside Toni Kroos, in front of a back four that already included three. O’Neill, meanwhile, opted to start with Aiden McGeady, Jon Walters and James McClean, when it had been widely believed that he would choose one from the last two of the three.

Darron Gibson, Wes Hoolahan and Jeff Hendrick all made way as Stephen Quinn and Glenn When returned to what was, on balance, a more attacking line up than had been expected.

From the earliest exchanges, though, it looked rather different on the pitch to the way it must have on a tactics board, with Ireland taking a while to get to grips with the pace of things and Germany settling so comfortably that as their full-backs pushed right up, they looked for all the world as if they were playing 2-2-6.

As Mats Hummels and Jérôme Boateng sat, it seemed as though every other member of the team was capable of posing a threat, with young left-back Erik Durm underlining the point when he let loose in the fifth minute with a looping volley from distance that came clattering back off the crossbar.

Forde was well beaten on that occasion and must have been relieved to see the ball come back from behind him. There were plenty of other anxious moments to follow with Ireland’s back four surviving by the seat of their pants at times and some of those a little further forward doing little enough to help.

McClean’s initial touches were generally poor, McGeady’s a mixed bag and Keane was simply removed from the early action. No matter who was involved, though, there was the usual problem with ball retention, not helped by the fact that some of the Irish players weighed up passes in what was, by local standards, slow motion.

Stephen Quinn, amid all of this, was one of the first Irish players to show some composure on but others followed, or threatened to, as when McClean turned outside Antonio Rudiger and went past him for the first time, only to badly overhit his cross. Hull City midfielder Quinn even produced a free that came close to getting Marc Wilson in at the far post and he was furious afterwards that his team mates hadn’t been more alert to the opportunity.

Germany, meanwhile, continued to dominate, although Forde didn’t have a save to make until the closing seconds of the opening half when Julian Draxler was put in down the left-hand side of the box and the goalkeeper blocked his low shot with his legs before the ball was scrambled away to safety.

Having been mainly involved as an outlet for team mates under pressure through those first 45 minutes, Forde had to be a little more lively after the break. Kroos, a persistent threat as he pushed forward from deep, forced him into a really decent save and one of the midfielder’s corners then almost led to a breakthrough when Hummels headed on and the largely subdued Thomas Müller, under pressure from McClean, failed to really connect with the loose ball.

Moments later, the hosts had their third penalty appeal of the night which was again waved away by the Slovenian referee, who felt Mario Götze had been a little too happy to go down as O’Shea sought to prevent him turning in pursuit of a Müller ball.

The Irish were living dangerously but then they had little choice and every now and then they managed a break of the sort that might somehow have yielded a goal against the run of play; Manuel Neuer, for instance, having to get down smartly enough at one stage to prevent a testing McClean cross from reaching McGeady.

Löw, who started the game with just four outfield substitutes after having decided against calling in replacements for any of those who had been forced to cry off, played the only attacking card he had, bringing on Max Kruse but the striker had barely touched the ball when Kroos finally broke the deadlock, with the Madrid midfielder shifting a yard to the right then firing low to the left of Quinn who attempted to block. The Dubliner probably obscured his goalkeeper’s view of things but it can’t have made much difference for the shot was firm and flew in off the inside of the post after spinning mid air for a second during which the hearts of the 5,000 or so Irish fans inside the stadium might well have skipped a beat.

With Ireland suddenly having to chase things, Hoolahan was brought on for Quinn and the Norwich City midfielder came close to snatching an equaliser with his shot off another McClean cross from the left, only blocked thanks to Durm’s desperate lunge as Neuer flung himself at it too.

It seemed sure to be a miss that would haunt Ireland. Instead, it would be entirely forgotten as O’Neill’s men grabbed their stunning last gasp equaliser in injury time. Hoolahan crossed from one side then Hendrick expertly cushioned it back from the other and O’Shea, almost incredibly, stole in front of Hummels to turn the ball home with the outside of his right foot.

A memorable way to mark his milestone on an unforgettable night.

Germany: Neuer (Bayern Munich); Rudiger (VfB Stuttgart), Boateng (Bayern Munich), Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), Durm (Borussia Dortmund); Ginter (Borussia Dortmund), Kroos (Real Madrid); Bellarabi (Bayer Leverkusen), Müller (Bayern Munich), Schürrle (Chelsea); Götze (Bayern Munich). Subs: Podolski (Arsenal) for Ginter (half-time), Kruse (Borussia Monchengladbach) for Draxler (70 mins), Rudy (Hoffenheim) for Bellarabi (86 mins).

Republic of Ireland: Forde (Millwall); Meyler (Hull City), Wilson (Stoke City), O’Shea (Sunderland), Ward (Burnley); Walters (Stoke City), Quinn (Hull City), Whelan (Stoke City), McClean (Wigan Athletic); McGeady (Everton); Keane (LA Galaxy). Hendrick (Derby County) for Whelan 53 mins), Gibson (Everton) for Keane (63 min), Hoolahan (Norwich City) for Quinn (76 mins).

Referee: D Skomina (Slovenia).

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