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Ireland maintained their good run of form as they drew 2-2 with Slovakia in a friendly international at the Aviva Stadium.
Miroslav Stoch gave the visitors the lead against the run of play early on before two penalties in as many minutes saw Martin O’Neill’s side take the lead, Shane Long and James McClean slotting home the spot-kicks.
The ease with which Slovakia cut the Boys in Green apart on the attack for the equaliser – which came courtesy of a Paul McShane own goal – will worry the manager but overall there were many positives to be taken from a decent performance.
Man-of-the-Match Wes Hoolahan again emphasised his importance to the side while Eunan O’Kane, McClean – in an unfamiliar role ostensibly in the forward line – and Cyrus Christie caught the eye with impressive displays.
Despite controlling much of the second period Ireland were unable to carve out many chances but overall it was a satisfying night’s work which means the side have lost just once in the last 12 matches.
The visitors went ahead on 14 minutes when McShane was sucked in and allowed Erik Sabo to race clear onto the ball before he cut inside and fed Stoch, the attacker sweeping home a tidy finish from 12 yards.
It was a double blow for the hosts as Rob Elliot was carried off after suffering an injury in his attempt to keep the shot out.
It didn’t take long for Ireland to level however, when the referee harshly penalised Matus Kozacik for bringing down Long, with television replays showing the Slovakia goalkeeper cleanly got the ball.
Regardless, Long finished clinically from the penalty spot to square the game.
Within a minute the game had turned on its head as Ireland were awarded another spot-kick, this time for Martin Skrtel tripping Long, and McClean’s effort was too powerful for Kozacik who got a hand on his shot from 12 yards.
The home side looked like they would take a deserved lead into the break but in stoppage time the ball was played in behind Stephen Ward and the subsequent cross was deflected onto McShane who inadvertently steered it past substitute Darren Randolph.
Ireland nearly restored their lead on 65 minutes when Christie did superbly down the right to beat two men before digging out a great cross to Wes Hoolahan at the back post, the playmaker nodded back into the six-yard box but the Slovaks, just, managed to snuff out the danger as Robbie Brady tried to force home the ball.
Brady had a couple of deadball efforts from his range but the Norwich City player will have been disappointed with his aim.
The second half rarely lived up to the excitement of the first and neither side could find a winner but it was a night both managers could be fairly satisfied with.