Thursday 23 October 2014

Stalemate in Sweden

Published 22/03/2013 | 22:01

Rasmus Elm, left, and Robbie Keane battle for possession during the 0-0 stalemate

Ireland maintained their fine away record under Giovanni Trapattoni to keep their World Cup dream alive with a 0-0 draw in Sweden.

The Irish tired after a superb opening 20 minutes but held firm in a tight Group C encounter at Stockholm's enclosed Friends Arena to claim a valuable point. Trapattoni's position has been under scrutiny since last summer's poor showing at Euro 2012 but the Irish have still not lost a qualifier away from home under his stewardship.

Sweden had the better chances with David Forde, making his first competitive start, twice saving well in the first half and again in the dying moments to preserve the stalemate.

Ireland dealt well with the threat of Sweden's star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and, although Austria overtook them with a convincing won over the Faroe Islands, they will be confident ahead of next Tuesday's game against them in Dublin.

Ireland made a positive start. Captain Robbie Keane, playing behind strike partner Shane Long, got into a good position but Jonathan Walters was unable direct a header goalwards. James McClean sent a corner invitingly across goal but Keane completely failed to connect with his shot and the hosts cleared.

Long set off on a mazy run after being fed by James McCarthy and found room to shoot outside the area after Andreas Granqvist slipped - but he fired well over.

The Swedes gave warning of their quality, however, when dangerman Ibrahimovic headed on and Tobias Hysen connected with a well-directed volley. Forde showed no sign of nerves, though, with a superb one-handed save to his right.

Forde was in action again soon after when a Kim Kallstrom free-kick from 40 yards out bounced awkwardly in the box but the Millwall keeper palmed wide.

Ireland maintained their composure after the restart and it was just after the hour before Sweden seriously threatened again. Ciaran Clark attempted to cut out Behrang Safari's pass but succeeded only in finding the same player again and the Swede's square ball teed up a good chance for Sebastian Larsson - but the Sunderland player sliced wide.

A goalless draw began to look like a good result for the Irish but they were not home yet with Ibrahimovic again threatening but fluffing a header and Alexander Kacaniklic miscuing a follow-up attempt. Rasmus Elm almost snatched victory in the last minute but Forde produced another fine save to keep out his deflected shot.

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