Frustrated Ireland held by Iraq

Republic of Ireland 0 Iraq 0

The result means that Iraq will have to defeat tournament favourites Nigeria by a two-goal margin in tomorrow’s final match to deny Ireland a place in the semi-final.

Nigeria and Malaysia played out a 1-1 draw in the other match contested in the pool.

Ireland and Malaysia have concluded their group campaign with four points apiece but Ireland’s superior goal difference gives them the advantage over the hosts.

The Irish had won one and lost the other of their two previous group matches at the event and knew victory would all but guarantee their passage into the semi-finals.

Captain Stephen Ward set up the first chance on 20 minutes, releasing the onrushing Keith Treacy and though the Blackburn Rovers winger rode three challenges, he was unable to get power on his shot and Iraq goalkeeper Naser dealt with the threat.

Naser would go on to have an inspired game, thwarting Ireland on several occasions with a series of terrific saves.

Keith Treacy’s mazy dribble carved open the Iraq defence on 70 minutes and he found Billy Clarke with a cross that the Ipswich Town striker met on the half-volley only to see it rebound off the crossbar.

Ireland drove forward in numbers looking for that elusive goal and it almost cost them late on as Iraq conjured up a counter-attack with Kadhim’s 85th minute shot clipping the crossbar.

A clearly disappointed Ireland manager Don Givens said afterwards: “Our players had the right attitude and they went out for the win. I could not fault them for that. However, the stop-start nature of the match meant we could never get a rhythm going and I hope our players never have to play a game like that again.”

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: S Redmond (Nottingham Forest), E Nolan (Blackburn Rovers), D Dennehy (Everton), D Elebert (Hamilton Academicals), S Lowry (Aston Villa), J Ryan (Shrewsbury Town), J Berrett (Huddersfield Town), M Collins (Huddersfield Town), K Treacy (Blackburn Rovers), B Clarke (Ipswich Town), S Ward (Wolverhampton Wanderers). Subs: A Judge (Blackburn Rovers) for Berrett (67 mins).

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