Goalless stalemate leaves Ireland frustrated
Ireland's Euro 2012 hopes suffered a major blow at the Aviva stadium here on Friday as Slovakia held Giovanni Trapattoni's men to a scoreless draw.
Following Russia's victory over Macedonia earlier, Dick Advocaat's men top Group B and welcome Ireland to Moscow on Tuesday night in what may be the defining clash of the campaign.
Although Slovakia created more clear chances, Vladimir Weiss will be content to leave Dublin with a point, and with Russia due to visit Bratislava in October, there is still all to play for in a group that has so far struggled to produce a clear favourite.
The fact that Ireland kept a record sixth successive clean sheet was overshadowed by the continuation of their decade-long run without a win against a higher-ranked team in a competitive international.
Robbie Keane's late miss ensured great frustration among the home support, and a late yellow card for Sean St Ledger rules him out of Tuesday's game.
The Leicester player was heroic in defence, and his absence could be vital in Moscow, where Ireland will need a marked improvement to escape with anything. The hosts began brightly, but lacked guile in the final third throughout.
Keith Andrews and Kevin Doyle were wasteful when in good positions inside the opening ten minutes, while Richard Dunne had to be on his toes to clear up after a good through pass from Vladimir Weiss threatened Ireland's goal for the first time.
When Ireland failed to properly clear a free-kick on the half-hour Shay Given was needed to tip Filip Holosko's header around the post from the follow-up cross.
Keith Andrews played in Damien Duff for Ireland's first shot in anger on 37 minutes but his first-time effort was well saved by Jan Mucha.
Referee Pedro Garcia waved away Glenn Whelan's appeals for a penalty after the restart before the impressive Miroslav Stoch sent Weiss through on goal at the other end only for the winger to shoot wide.
With time running down Trapattoni sent on Simon Cox for the tiring Doyle, but the best chance was to come for Keane with 15 minutes remaining.
Duff floated an inch perfect cross from the right wing, but somehow the Ireland skipper mistimed his header and Slovakia closed out the contest to keep their Euro 2012 hopes alive.
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