Saturday, October 17, 2009

17 October 2007 - Steve Staunton's Last Stand

On 17 October 2007, the Republic of Ireland narrowly avoided what would have been one of their worst home defeats in history by scoring in the last minute of stoppage time to draw with Cyprus, 1-1. The match was a Euro 2008 qualifer played before a crowd of 54,000 at Croke Park in Dublin.

The Irish side went into the match vowing to exact revenge for a 5-2 loss inflicted by the Cypriots in Nicosia on 7 October 2006. That loss placed immense pressure on Republic boss Steve Staunton, who had assumed the post in January 2006.

In the rematch, Ireland tested the Cypriots early, but were unable to beat goalkeeper Antonis Georgallides. Irish captain Robbie Keane had the best chance to put the Republic ahead in the 75th minute, but his header went inches wide. Instead, it was Cyprus who took the lead when, in the 80th minute, defender Stelios Okkarides headed the ball in past Irish keeper Shay Given.

The Republic's chances appeared all but over until the 93rd minute, when Ireland defender Steve Finnan found the back of the net with what was nearly the last kick of the match.

The last-gasp goal may have preserved the Republic's pride, but the draw eliminated them from Euro 2008 with one match left to play. Staunton, who still holds the most caps for the Republic at 102, was sacked one week later.

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