John O'Shea's last-gasp equaliser gave the Republic of Ireland a famous 1-1 draw at Germany on Tuesday night in a Euro 2016 qualifier at the Veltins-Arena in Gelsenkirchen.
Toni Kroos had scored in the 71st minute to put Germany on course for the win, but O'Shea—who was making his 100th appearance for Ireland—leveled in the fourth and final minute of stoppage time to secure a deserved point for Martin O'Neill's side.
Coming off a surprising loss to Poland on Saturday night, Germany struggled again to turn their territorial dominance into the final product in the attacking third. Joachim Low's side outshot Ireland 22-4 and held 65 percent of possession, per WhoScored.com, but were repeatedly unable to break down the visitors' spirited resistance.
As a result, the defending World Cup champions remain in fourth place in Group D, outside the qualification spots for Euro 2016. Poland and Ireland top the group with seven points each, while Scotland—who drew 2-2 with Poland on Tuesday—are third with four points.
Germany also have four points but trail Scotland on goal differential. Low's side will hope to improve their position when they play minnow Gibraltar on Nov. 14. The UEFA newcomers have lost all three matches so far in qualifying by a combined score of 17-0.
Between now and then, however, Low will have to find a way to recreate the form that saw Germany win the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Complicating matters is the issue of replacing star performers like captain Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker and Miroslav Klose, all of whom retired from the international game following the World Cup.
Up next for Martin O'Neill's Ireland is a match away to Scotland the same night. The winner of that clash will fancy their chances of finishing in the top two spots, both of which earn automatic qualification for Euro 2016.
Within moments of kick-off, the match's pattern emerged as Germany controlled possession and Ireland defended deep. But although Germany were dominant, Low's side was unable to mount incisive attacks, clearly missing the end product in the final third.
In the fifth minute, Erik Durm hit the woodwork with a powerful, dipping volley from distance. Nine minutes later, Antonio Rudiger headed wastefully wide after being set up by a clever Germany set piece.
The hosts continued to probe Ireland's defence for openings with little success as half-time neared. In the 40th minute, Matthias Ginter headed over the bar from a Kroos free-kick, and in stoppage time, Ireland goalkeeper David Forde saved easily as Julian Draxler shot from a tight angle on the left.
Low shuffled his attack at half-time, introducing forward Lukas Podolski for Ginter, a holding midfielder. The Arsenal man's first contribution was negative, though, giving away possession to Robbie Keane in the 49th minute.
Ireland worked the ball out to the left for Aiden McGeady, who played a cross into the middle, where Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer intercepted to snuff out the danger.
At the other end moments later, Podolski forced Forde into a save in the 49th minute with a bouncing shot from distance. Forde then saved from Karim Bellarabi in the 53rd minute and again from Kroos two minutes later.
Germany appealed for a penalty in the 58th minute as Podolski went to ground in the box, taking Ireland defender Marc Wilson down with him in the process. Instead, referee Damir Skomina called a foul against Podolski, and Germany remained frustrated.
The world champions were looking increasingly futile in the attack, and when the opening goal finally arrived, it came from almost nowhere. Accepting a pass well outside the box in the 71st minute, Kroos took a couple of touches toward the box before firing a low shot past Forde and in off the post.
The goal visibly lifted Germany's spirits, and the hosts immediately set out to score another. An excellent chance followed in the 80th minute as Thomas Muller freed Mario Gotze with a lovely pass through the defence. Unmarked, Gotze only had to beat Forde one-on-one, but the Ireland goalkeeper saved to keep his side in the match.
Ireland nearly made Germany pay in the 85th minute with a flowing team move that was worthy of a goal. Darron Gibson spread play to the left for James McClean, who spotted the run of Wes Hoolahan and crossed low into the middle. Hoolahan's first-time shot seemed destined for the back of the net, but Durm made a crucial block to preserve Germany's lead.
But by that point Germany were hanging on desperately, and in the fourth and final minute of stoppage time, the visitors pulled level.
Ireland's final attack of the game appeared to have petered out as Hoolahan's cross flew to the far side of Germany's box. But Jeff Hendrick volleyed the ball back into the middle, where O'Shea stuck out a foot to redirect into the net.
With that—the final kick of the match—Ireland had earned famous point in Germany. On the balance of play, it was no more than they deserved.
|Germany Player Ratings|
|Lukas Podolski (for Ginter, 46')||5.9|
|Max Kruse (for Draxler, 70')||6.4|
|Sebastian Rudy (for Bellarabi, 87')||6.2|
|Republic of Ireland Player Ratings|
|Jeff Hendrick (for Whelan, 54')||7.1|
|Darron Gibson (for Keane, 63')||6.6|
|Wes Hoolahan (for Quinn, 76')||5.9|
Republic of Ireland goalscorer John O'Shea (via Sky Sports):
It was a very special moment because the group has a fantastic spirit and we didn't want to come off this pitch with just a 1-0 defeat. But that makes it a bit more special—we got something from the game.
The manager put me forward with a couple of minutes to go and thankfully I was able to stick it away.
But it was a big credit to the lads in front of me tonight. It was very determined and very dogged. It was a big, big performance but we came up with little bits of quality when we had to come out and play and that was very pleasing.
Republic of Ireland coach Martin O'Neill (via Sky Sports):
It was a terrific effort. We were backs to the wall in the first half. We formulated a plan to try and thwart them as much as we can and when we had the ball ourselves we had to try and manoeuvre it.
For periods in the first half, we were under pressure but we had to take that into consideration. It was a similar situation in the second half.
When they scored, that changed out mindset and we had to go in look of the equaliser and we kept going until the very, very end. Our spirit carried us through.