Republic of Ireland 1 Estonia 1: Euro joy for Trapattoni’s men
Giovanni Trapattoni's side booked their place at Euro 2012 with a draw against Estonia in Dublin
This was far from an enthralling spectacle, but in booking their place at Euro 2012 with a draw against Estonia, the Republic of Ireland rewarded Dublin with an enthralling occasion.
Estonia had not troubled their hosts until the 57th minute, when Konstantin Vassilijev’s long-range effort cancelled out Stephen Ward’s first-half opener.
And the Republic were a shadow of the side that had so emphatically brushed their opponents aside last week. The atmosphere was electrifying. The football was not.
But on a night such as this, the performance matters little. And the party had started long before kick-off in the Irish capital.
The Republic should have taken the lead in the sixth minute when a well-worked set piece allowed Damien Duff to fire a low effort on goal. Goalkeeper Pavel Londak spilled into the path of captain Robbie Keane – but the LA Galaxy striker’s follow-up shot trickled wide of the left post.
The visitors, still smarting from their 4-0 home defeat by Giovanni Trapattoni’s men last week, failed to settle into any kind of rhythm.
It was a patchy half from both sides but Ward finally put the hosts ahead after half an hour when he bundled home Kevin Doyle’s flick-on from a Damien Duff corner.
It was telling that up until Ward’s opener hit the net, the raucous Aviva Stadium’s loudest cheer had come when a perfectly-crafted paper aeroplane glided slowly down into the middle of the pitch. A reminder, if one were needed, that the bouncing Green Army need little excuse for a party.
The second half was a similarly cagey affair, with the first chance of note falling to the impressive Ward, who shot straight at Londak in 54th minute.
But the visitors conjured an unlikely equaliser when Vassilijev’s low drive from 30 yards beat Shay Given, who will have been disappointed to see the Estonia captain’s effort bounce under him.
The Republic could have added extra gloss to the 5-1 aggregate scoreline through Richard Dunne – but the centre-half’s thumping header was saved by Londak at point-blank range.
But another goal for either side would have changed nothing – and Trapattoni’s men played out the remainder of the game to seal their place at a major tournament for the first time in nine years.
The final whistle sparked wild scenes of celebration. The party was set to go on well into the night.
Republic of Ireland: Shay Given, Sean St Ledger, John O’Shea, Richard Dunne, Keith Andrews, Stephen Hunt (Aiden McGeady, 59), Damien Duff (Keith Fahey, 79), Glenn Whelan, Stephen Ward, Robbie Keane (Simon Cox, 68), Kevin Doyle.
Estonia: Pavel Londak, Taijo Teniste, Ragnar Klavan, Taavi RÃ¤hn, Enar Jaager, Joel Lindpere (Tarmo Kink, 54), Konstantin Vassilijev, Martin Vunk, Dmitri Kruglov (Sander Puri, 18), Kaimar Saag, Vladimir Voskoboinikov (Ats Purje, 73).