Robbie Keane struggles as Ireland seal draw in Slovakia
Robbie Keane’s first-half penalty miss and subsequent wastefulness restricted Ireland to a solitary point against Slovakia in Zilina.
Both of the Group B outsiders were looking for a victory to keep them within touching distance of overwhelming favourites Russia.
The visitors were in front inside 12 minutes after Sean St Ledger pounced on a loose ball from a Keith Fahey free-kick – the Preston defender duly swept the ball past the Slovakian goalkeeper Jan Mucha.
Ledger’s opportunism allowed Ireland to settle into a counter-attacking style, content to soak up Slovakian pressure while looking to unleash Shane Long and Aiden McGeady.
Tottenham have not relied upon Keane of late and his lack of playing time this season may be to blame for the Ireland captain and all-time top scorer’s lacklustre display.
When a wayward clearance from an under-pressure Mucha fell to Keane the 30-year-old failed to capitalise on an empty net after mis-controlling the ball.
And moments later a dreadfully defended corner by Ireland allowed the home side to equalise.
Juraj Kucka flicked on Marek HamÃ…Â¡ÃƒÂk’s cross to JÃƒÂ¡n Ã„Å½urica for the centre-back to nod past Shay Given. It was a cheap manner in which to concede after a strong first-half performance from Ireland.
Despite the setback Keane was handed the chance to restore the visitor’s lead just before the break. McGeady was brought down in the box by Mucha but Keane’s tame attempt was palmed away by Slovakian goalkeeper.
Keane then spawned two wonderful second-half opportunities as Giovanni Trappatoni’s men were forced to settle for a point.
An out-of-sorts Keane was the main talking point in the post match interviews and Trapattoni admitted he may be forced to drop his skipper.
“Missing penalties is not a problem,” explained Trapattoni, 71. “The problem is I know he is not 100% fit, he didn’t play like he can.”
“I could have given him a rest, I could have changed one or two players and in the future it’s possible I could try this situation.”
“The last game he scored a goal so the goalkeeper knows where he placed the last penalty. He was tired and I could have changed him. But psychologically it’s like killing him.”