Hungary 0-0 Rep. Ireland: Trapattoni’s men make it 14 games unbeaten

KEEPERS Shay Given and Keiren Westwood ensured the Republic of Ireland will head for Euro 2012 on the back of a 14-game unbeaten run with resilient individual displays in Hungary.

Given produced three first-half saves, the second of them a sensational effort, and half-time replacement Westwood matched his feats with an excellent 54th-minute stop of his own, all from Dinamo Moscow midfielder Balazs Dzsudzsak.

Ireland were under pressure for long periods, but had chances of their own with John O’Shea and Robbie Keane going close before the break and substitutes Jon Walters and Simon Cox doing so after it but it took an 84th-minute goal-line clearance by Stephen Hunt to clinch the draw.

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“It’s very hard because it’s a week away from the biggest games of our lives and, as much as we don’t want to lose, we don’t want to get injured and that all takes effect on the game,” defender Richard Dunne said afterwards. “We’re happy because we’ve done our bit, we’ve got a bit of fitness out of it and we’re still unbeaten going into the tournament.”

The game kicked off around 20 minutes late after a spectacular thunderstorm over the Ferenc Puskas Stadium. Hungary, who finished third in their qualifying group behind Holland and Sweden, started confidently on a slick pitch but Ireland went close to the opener after they were awarded a seventh-minute free-kick. Glenn Whelan played the ball short to Damien Duff, whose cross was headed onto the roof of the net by O’Shea.

Former Celtic player Aiden McGeady was proving a real threat, but Dunne had to come to the Republic’s rescue with an expertly-timed sliding challenge on Peter Szakaly after midfielder Vladimir Koman had split the visitors’ defence with a superb 14th-minute pass. Bogdan had to beat away Robbie Keane’s well-struck shot seconds later, but Given was equally tested by Balazs Dzsudzsak’s skidding 17th-minute drive. Any lingering doubts over Given’s fitness were erased when he changed direction superbly to keep out another Dzsudzsak effort after it had taken a wicked deflection.

The Aston Villa keeper denied the same man for a third time with 25 minutes gone with Ireland allowing the midfielder far too much space. The Dinamo Moscow midfielder caused problems again two minutes later, this time crossing from the left for Szakaly to glance a header across the face of goal. Ireland were having to defend deep an in numbers as Hungary started to dominate in the middle of the field, where Adam Pinter and Koman were seeing plenty of the ball. But as ever, Trapattoni’s men showed great resilience, although at times, it was less than pretty. Dunne had caught the Hungarian defence square with a long ball on a couple of occasions, and he did so again 10 minutes before the break, although Keane was called back by a tight offside decision.

The tempo slackened as the half entered its closing stages, but there was a worrying moment for the Irish in the final minute of the half. Szalai stepped inside one challenge and seemed certain to score until Ward made a last-ditch blocked to dispossess him, but the defender remained prone on the ground, apparently in some pain. However, having been treated both on and off the pitch, the left-back returned to finish the half.

Trapattoni made a double change at the break, withdrawing Given and Kevin Doyle and sending on Keiren Westwood and Jon Walters. The pattern of the first half continued, with Westwood replicating Given’s form to ensure a draw..

Hungary: Bogdan, Varga, Meszaros, Gyurcso, Korcsmar, Halmosi, Pinter, Koman, Dzsudzsak, Szakaly, Szalai. Subs: Kiraly, Kadar, Nemeth, Debreceni, Vanczak, Koltai, Szabics. .

Republic of Ireland: Given, O’Shea, St. Ledger, Dunne, Ward, Duff, Andrews, Whelan, McGeady, Keane, Doyle. Subs: Westwood, Kelly, Walters, Gibson, Hunt, O’Dea, Long.