World Cup 1990: Ireland 1 England 1
KEVIN SHEEDY'S blessed left foot turned a night of near-despair for Jack Charlton's army into a wild World Cup celebration last night.
Just when it seemed as if the Republic of Ireland's World Cup Finals debut was doomed, Sheedy stepped up in the 73rd minute to give the Republic a morale-boosting and richly deserved draw against the Old Enemy at the Sant'Elia stadium in Cagliari.
It was absolutely vital for the Irish to get something out of this game, but for a long time it looked like being an almost impossible task for them and hopes had practically faded until Sheedy dispossessed England substitute Steve McMahon near the edge of the penalty area and cracked a glorious drive low and hard from 23 yards into the far corner of the net.
So now, with this point, their hopes must be high of qualifying for the second stage, at least that could be a reality if they do the business in their next outing against the Egyptians in Sicily.
They had fallen behind after only nine minutes. Chris Waddle caused some uncertainty it seemed in the mind of Steve Staunton and had time to swing over a long diagonal pass to Lineker.
The flight of the ball caught Mick McCarthy in no-man's land. The ball glanced off the chest of I.ineker, completely wrongfooting Packie Bonner. The England striker, stumbling in the process, contrived to hold his footing and carry the ball on over the line.
So Lineker, the top scorer with six and winner of the Golden Boot in Mexico four years ago, seemed to have done the trick again for his country. But it would hardly rate among his more classic efforts.
In fact, there was very little class about this encounter. After Sheedy's intervention of course, it suddenly presented a much better picture, but up to then, and against an English side which for their part did not really distinguish themselves, the men in green hud struggled desperately to find their real rhythm.
Jack Charlton had caused some surprise at the outset by preferring Staunton to Chris Hughton at full back, but less perhaps that once again he found himself unable to allocate one of the centre back spots to David O'Leary. The Irish did manage to exert some early pressure, it is true, but the man on whom so much depends in the midfield sector, Ray Houghton, did not give the impression of being fully fit and was certainly not his usual busy and dynamic self.
Paul McGrath, Andy Townsend and Kevin Sheedy toiled hard, but with the wind behind them in the first half, the usual long ball tactics were constantly overshooting the mark and carried to England's safety. At the end of it all, the English must have felt almost as bad as they did after that game in Stuttgart in the European Championships.
The only other two incidents of any great remark in the first half were both in Ireland's favour. Shortly after the goal, after some good work by Houghton and Chris Morris, Sheedy dropped a nice flick over to Paul McGrath, who went for a header when he seemed to have time enough to let die ball drop to his feet, and Shilton saved easily. It gives some indication of the trend of events, or rather the lack of them that it was almost half an hour before either side forced a corner kick.
Ireland might have got on the score sheet when the English goalkeeper was penalised for handling the ball outside his area, but from Townsend's tap, McGrath fired the ball high and wide.
There was no great alteration in the standard on the resumption, with the mental discomfort of the Irish fans being supplemented by, a physical one as the rain began to pour down interspersed with the odd little thunder and lightning.
Just after the restart, Houghton found Tony Cascarino with probably his most adroit touch of the evening. Cascarino seemed to have put the pass to the best value when he sent Gary Stevens off balance, but the finishing shot was drastically weak.
Charlton produced another one of his surprises when he took John Aldridge off the field and replaced him with Alan McLoughlin, leaving Cascarino as the lone man up front. Bobby Robson replied by substituting Peter Beardsley with McMahon. The English boss also sent on Steve Bull for I.ineker in the closing stages, but England were unable to recover their poise.
Republic of Ireland: Packie Bonner, Chris Morris, Steve Staunton, Mick McCarthy, Kevin Moran, Paul McGrath, Ray Houghton, Andy Townsend, John Aldridge (Alan McLoughlin 64'), Tony Cascarino, Kevin Sheedy.
Goals: Sheedy 72'
RATINGS: Bonner (6); Morris (6), McCarthy (5), Moran (6), Staunton (6); Houghton (6), McGrath (7), Townsend (7), Sheedy (8); Aldridge (6), Cascarino (6).
England: Peter Shilton, Gary Stevens, Stuart Pearce, Des Walker, Terry Butcher, Bryan Robson, Chris Waddle, Paul Gascoigne, Peter Barnes, Gary Lineker (Steve Bull 83'), Peter Beardsley (Steve McMahon 69').
Goals: Lineker 8'
Venue: Stadio Sant'Elia, Cagliari Date: 11th June 1990
Referee: Aron Schmidhuber (West Germany)