“We did enough to win this match but we just didn’t win it,” said Irish boss Brian Kerr after his side threw away a 2-0 lead to tie 2-2 with the gadfly like Israelis at Lansdowne Road.
“I have never seen a team have so much domination and not manage to score.”
Because of the disappointing result, Kerr’s men cannot afford stumble again after Switzerland triumphed 3-1 over the Faroe Islands to shoot to the top of Group 4 at the weekend.
In a blow to Kerr, Robbie Keane, who scored the second goal against Israel, withdrew from the squad on Monday with a shoulder injury. Ireland will also be without defenders Andy O’Brien, sent off against the Israelis and Steve Finnan, who is still nursing a calf injury.
The Republic (2-0-4, 10) go into the match against the group’s whipping boys three points behind the new leaders who don’t play again until they host Israel on September 3. With France finally showing signs of life, going by last week’s 2-1 friendly win over Hungary in Metz, a full points haul is imperative today.
Djibril Cisse and Florent Malouda connected for the French – Dublin-bound on September 7 – against Hungary to hand coach Raymond Domenech his first victory at home in seven games since his appointment last summer.
The Swiss, Ireland’s final qualifying opponents on October 12, were made to work for their win after midfielder Raphael Wicky headed them in front (25th) midway through the first half.
Rogvi Jacobsen (70th) equalized for the Islanders, but a quick late brace by French-based striker Alex Frei (72nd, 86th) finished off the home side.
“It was quite tough in the end, when you look at how the game developed,” Frei said. “When you’re playing in such difficult wind conditions and with a pitch that wasn’t ideal, you really have to show your character.”
Northern Ireland played against ten men for 75 minutes but even that was too much as they lost 4-1 to Germany at Windsor Park, this despite scoring first.
The North seemed headed for a rare victory against one of world football’s biggest names when Germans were reduced to ten after a goalbound header was deflected by hand in the 15th minute.
David Healy, a live wire under Lawrie Sanchez’s tenure, converted the ensuing penalty, but the lead lasted a mere 120 seconds before Germany’s Ghanaian-born midfielder Gerald Asamoah equalized.
Second half goals by Michael Ballack (62nd, 66th) and 20 year-old birthday boy Lukas Podokski (81st) consigned the North to yet another defeat.
The few bright moments for the Irish were provided by winger Keith Gillespie, whose runs down the right bothered the German defense. It was his cross that forced Huth to handle with goalie Jens Lehmann beaten.
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Scotland face Belarus in Minsk today with their tails high thanks to a 2-0 decision over Moldova in Glasgow that kept the Tartan Army in the hunt in Group 5.
Christian Dailly (53rd) and James McFadden (89th) secured the Scots’ and new manager Walter Smith’s first points in qualifying action.
“We have given ourselves a little bit of a lifeline although it is going to be a really hard game (against Belarus). But at least we can take a little bit of confidence from today,” Dailly said after the Moldova game.
The Scots remain fifth in the group with five points from as many games. Italy, held to a goalless tie in Oslo, top the table with 13 points, four ahead of Norway and Slovenia. The latter came away from Minsk with a 1-1 tie when Belarus’ Velantin Belkevich (19th ) canceled out Nastja Ceh’s opener (16).
Poland knocked off Northern Ireland’s next opponents, Azerbaijan, 3-0 in Baku to claim the Group 6 leadership from idle England.
Tomasz Frankowski (28th), Tomasz Klos (48th) and Maciej Zurawski (79th) lifted the Poles (6-1, 18) two points above the England, who beat Colombia 3-2 in a friendly in giant’s Stadium last week on Michael Owen’s hat trick.
The English have a game in hand.