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Slovakia and Ireland share the spoils

Slovakia 1-1 Republic of Ireland
Defenders Sean St Ledger and Ján Ďurica exchanged first-half goals to keep both sides' qualifying ambitions alive.

Ireland's Paul Green takes on Erik Jendrišek of Slovakia
Ireland's Paul Green takes on Erik Jendrišek of Slovakia ©Getty Images

Slovakia and the Republic of Ireland will head into next year with their UEFA EURO 2012 ambitions very much alive after sharing the Group B spoils.

Sean St Ledger put the visitors in front on 16 minutes though the half went downhill from then on for Giovanni Trapattoni's men. Another defender, Ján Ďurica, equalised following a corner and then Robbie Keane spurned a golden chance to restore the advantage when his spot kick was saved by Ján Mucha on the cusp of half-time.

The sides therefore head into the winter level with Armenia on seven points, two behind Russia – though both had chances to pull level with the leaders. Slovakia had already spurned two presentable openings through Kornel Saláta and Juraj Kucka when St Ledger broke the deadlock, jabbing in after Keith Fahey's free-kick caused problems in the penalty area.

The hosts were rocked, but regained their composure when Aiden McGeady's mistake allowed Radoslav Zabavník to drill in a cross that Eric Jendrišek just failed to convert. Ďurica got more than enough purchase on his header on 36 minutes, however, powering in after Marek Hamšík's corner had been flicked on at the near post by Saláta. Ďurica was only playing because Martin Škrtel was ruled out through suspension.

The sold-out Štadión MŠK Žilina was euphoric, even if they were briefly silenced when Mucha brought down McGeady. The goalkeeper made amends by denying Keane and Slovakia began to sense it was their night. Tomáš Hubočan forced Shay Given into action from distance though, as the hosts pushed forward, Ireland almost punished them on the counter 12 minutes from time only for substitute Darron Gibson's lack of conviction to allow Miroslav Karhan to clear the danger. Karhan himself almost grabbed a winner on a night where he became the first player to reach 100 caps for Slovakia but Given denied him while Tomáš Oravec and Keane both wasted golden opportunities late on as it ended 1-1.

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