14 October 2014 23:31
John O’Shea marked his 100th cap by snatching a dramatic 1-1 draw for the Republic of Ireland against Germany in Gelsenkirchen on Tuesday.
The world champions, who suffered a chastening 2-0 Group D loss in Poland on Saturday, looked to have put a lethargic first-half display behind them when Toni Kroos netted a 71st-minute opener.
Yet Ireland, buoyed by wins in their opening two qualifiers, stunned their illustrious hosts deep into stoppage time.
Jeff Hendrick knocked a searching cross from fellow substitute Wes Hoolahan back across goal and O’Shea showed excellent anticipation to direct the ball low into the bottom-right corner and send the travelling support into raptures.
Ireland are now level with Poland on seven points at the top of the group – three ahead of Germany and Scotland.
The only two changes to the Germany side defeated in Warsaw were enforced as Matthias Ginter and Julian Draxler came in for Christoph Kramer and Andre Schurrle, who were both absent due to injury.
Stephen Quinn and Glenn Whelan were paired together in central midfield for Ireland, with Jon Walters providing attacking support to captain Robbie Keane, but the visitors were rarely allowed to leave their own half during the early exchanges.
Left-back Durm had a torrid time against Poland but almost got the experience out of his system after seven minutes through a rasping 30-yard half-volley that thudded against the crossbar.
Fellow full-back Antonio Rudiger should have opened the scoring seven minutes later but headed off-target when Thomas Muller nodded Kroos’ floated pass back across goal.
It was telling that Germany came closest during the opening period through efforts from defenders as their attacking talent failed to fire effectively – the likes of Kroos, Draxler and Mario Gotze regularly coming up short with the final pass.
Karim Bellarabi was unable to capitalise on an embarrassing mix-up involving Ireland defender Marc Wilson and goalkeeper David Forde before the latter thwarted Draxler in first-half stoppage time to ensure Martin O’Neill’s team went in all square.
Germany coach Joachim Low responded to the lacklustre opening half with an attacking change, sending on Lukas Podolski for Ginter.
But the Arsenal forward soon lost possession to hand Ireland an opening – Keane and Aiden McGeady combining before Manuel Neuer did well to grasp James McClean’s fizzed low cross.
Forde saved sharply in the 53rd minute as Bellarabi stabbed towards his near post on the end of a wonderful cross-field ball from Kroos, who then had the Millwall goalkeeper at full stretch as he hammered goalwards from 25 yards.
Muller was unable to turn home when Mats Hummels glanced on the resulting 56th-minute corner as Germany finally turned up the pressure.
Podolski and Gotze both had penalty appeals waved away before Ireland’s resistance was finally broken with 19 minutes to play.
Substitute Max Kruse found Kroos, who was allowed room by Quinn to drive forward and arrow home a shot via the base of the post.
Forde was soon called into action once more to deny Gotze and it proved a vital intervention.
Ireland’s chance of grabbing a memorable point appeared to have gone when Durm produced a last-ditch block to keep out Hoolahan, but they poured forward once more and O’Shea would not be denied.