Fabio Celestini came off the bench to score an 87th-minute winning goal as Switzerland raced to the top of EURO 2004™ Group 10 with a 2-1 victory over the Republic of Ireland at Lansdowne Road.
The Olympique de Marseille midfield player had only been on the field for three minutes when he latched on to a diagonal ball from Swiss playmaker Ricardo Cabanas and lifted a right-foot shot over Shay Given in the Ireland goal to secure three more points for Jakob Kuhn's side.
Before the hosts created a clear-cut opportunity, Stéphane Chapuisat twice went close for the visitors. But it was Robbie Keane who almost opened the scoring - the Tottenham Hotspur FC striker raced through and swept a falling ball wide of the onrushing Switzerland goalkeeper Jörg Stiel, but was faced with an angle too acute and eventually skidded an effort wide of the far post.
Switzerland began to take control of the game as half-time approached. Servette FC's Alexander Frei had the ball in the net on 37 minutes, only to see his effort ruled out for offside, but it was an early warning for a flat-footed Ireland back four - and they failed to heed it. A minute before half-time a beautifully floated free-kick dropped over the Ireland back line and sat up nicely for Hakan Yakin, who lifted the ball over Shay Given to score his tenth goal in 20 international appearances and put Switzerland 1-0 up.
Frei and easy
After the break, the visitors began to play with far more confidence, notably when Chapuisat fed Frei, who played the ball through his marker's legs to Cabanas, but Given made a brave save at his feet. But with 16 minutes left to play Ireland grabbed a bizarre equaliser. Damien Duff had gone close with a thunderous close-range effort before a cross from the left fell at the far post where Gary Breen and the otherwise magnificent Ludovic Magnin tangled and the Swiss defender managed to nudge the ball with his knee back across his goalkeeper into the far corner.
But Switzerland's despair soon turned to joy after Kuhn's 84th-minute substitution of goalscorer Hakan Yakin for Celestini, whose winning goal heaped misery on Ireland coach Mick McCarthy. He said: "I'm disappointed - absolutely sick with the result. Maybe it's down to me at the end of it. We could have settled for a point but I think we had to try to win that game."