Euro 2012 - Cox keeps Ireland's unbeaten run alive

Wed, 29 Feb 21:46:00 2012

The Republic of Ireland extended their unbeaten run to 12 games after a late equaliser from substitute Simon Cox earned them a 1-1 draw against the Czech Republic at the Aviva Stadium.

Czech Republic's Jiri Stajner challenges Ireland's Sean St Ledger during their international friendly soccer match at the Aviva Stadium - 0

Former Liverpool and Aston Villa striker Milan Baros had put the visitors in front in the 50th minute and Ireland looked set to be heading for a dreadfully disappointing home defeat.

However, they finally came alive in the closing stages of the game, with the introduction of Sunderland's James McClean for his debut 11 minutes from time seeming to give everybody in the old Landsdowne Road a lift.

It was another substitute who was the hero though with Cox scoring his third international goal with a smart finish four minutes from the end after some good work by Keith Andrews.

With the exception of missing duo Richard Dunne and Kevin Doyle, Ireland started with what is largely assumed to be Giovanni Trapattoni's first choice XI with Darren O'Dea and Shane Long coming in for the injured parties.

It was Long who had Ireland's best chance in a tepid first-half and it came before the opening minute was out, but he could only head straight at Petr Cech after a lovely run and hanging cross from Aiden McGeady.

Robbie Keane also made a chance for himself in the 15th minute when he superbly took down a long ball over the top, but he just could not get enough power on his shot and Cech managed to save with his legs.

John O'Shea flashed a header wide from a corner soon after, but the Czechs began to take the initiative as the half progressed and started to dominate possession.

Like the Irish though, they lacked a cutting edge and it was not until the 44th minute that they really got a decent effort on target with Jan Rezek cutting in from the left and curling a decent low right-footed shot towards goal that Shay Given had to push away.

However, they did then take the lead soon after the restart with Baros netting his 40th international goal with a neat curling finish into the corner of the net after being found by a well-disguised Rezek pass.

It was a poor goal for Ireland to concede though with the defenders attracted to Rezek in possession which allowed Baros to roam free as Stephen Ward played the ex-Liverpool man onside.

The Czechs looked comfortable and in control for most of the match after that even when Ireland brought on Paul Green, Stephen Hunt, Jonathan Walters and Cox.

The crowd of nearly 38,000 were barely raising a whimper either but all that changed when in-form Sunderland starlet McClean came on for McGeady.

The Derry-native looked lively down the left and helped get the crowd into it. However it was Andrews who created the equaliser in the 86th minute as he nicked possession and drove forward before playing the ball into Cox in the box; the West Brom striker then skipped past his man and caught Cech out with a low finish from a tight angle for a fine goal.

Ireland then pressed on for a winner in the closing stages but did not really have enough time to create anything of note.

Cox's goal ultimately glossed over what was a poor performance from Ireland. Improvement will be needed in Poland and Ukraine if the Irish are to progress out of a tough group that contains Croatia, Italy and world champions Spain.

Both the Italians (to the USA) and Croatia (to Sweden) suffered surprising home defeats on Wednesday night, but Ireland have their own concerns to deal with before they can start worrying about the troubles of others.

Seán Fay / Eurosport

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