Ireland inspired by Richard Dunne as they secure a precious draw in Bulgaria

Ireland inspired by Richard Dunne as they secure a precious draw in Bulgaria

Bulgaria 1 - 1 Republic of Ireland.The Republic of Ireland today took a marvellous lead goal through Richard Dunne in Sofia just 24 minutes into their World Cup qualifying tie against Bulgaria. Bulgaria recovered to be level at half-time but were defied by a stubborn and committed Ireland throughout the second half of a tense and competitive match.
7th Jun 2009
World Cup Qualifer
Bulgaria
1
-1
Rep. of Ireland
Telkiyski 29
Richard Dunne 24
Saturday, 06 June 2009
Sofia, Bulgaria

Ireland inspired by Richard Dunne as they secure a precious draw in Bulgaria

The Republic of Ireland today took a marvellous lead goal through Richard Dunne in Sofia just 24 minutes into their World Cup qualifying tie against Bulgaria. Bulgaria recovered to be level at half-time but were defied by a stubborn and committed Ireland throughout the second half of a tense and competitive match.

The point that Ireland gained was invaluable in the context of the race to the finals of the World Cup in South Africa next year. But even more important was the fact they prevented Bulgaria from taking all three points and have now put themselves into a great position to finish at least in second place in the group.

Ireland now have 13 points from their seven matches in Group Eight of the qualifying tournament and are one point behind Italy, who have six matches played.

Bulgaria are on eight points from six matches in third position and the five points advantage that Ireland have over Bulgaria gives them a very strong grip on the qualifying process. They will now play Cyprus away from home on September 5 with everything to play for.

Ireland against Bulgaria were inspired by Richard Dunne who came through a late fitness test to take his regular place at the centre of Ireland's defence and he showed how important he is with a magnificently taken goal.

The goal came after a very bright start to the game by Ireland who were calm and secure in their football and in control of the game until they surrendered a soft equalising goal after 29 minutes.

Dunne's goal was his seventh goal in his 51st international appearance and it arrived after Ireland had caused the Bulgaria defence regular problems.

Ireland had Caleb Folan at centre-forward and Stephen Hunt on the left wing and both were very prominent in Ireland's early play.

Hunt had a header saved low down by goalkeeper Ivankov in the 6th minute after Folan had set Damien Duff up on the right for an accurate cross to the far upright.

Within a minute Ireland were back and Robbie Keane served Folan whose shot from just outside the penalty area was taken low again by Ivankov.

Hunt regularly stretched full-back Milanov on Ireland's left wing and it was a foul on Hunt that led to Ireland's goal. Hunt himself took the free and Richard Dunne lost his marker, Berbatov, to power a header down and away from Ivankov for an inspiring lead goal.

Sadly, however, Ireland blew their advantage by conceding a simple equaliser in the 29th minute.

A long ball from Bulgaria's central defence was angled over the top of Ireland's defence and with Kevin Kilbane failing to cut it out, Telkyski stole in from the right wing to fire a shot low past goalkeeper Given.

Bulgaria grew immensely in confidence after this goal and Ireland had to survive some scary moments before half-time. The pattern was unrelieved throughout the second half as Bulgaria dominated and maintained constant pressure on the Irish defence.

Dunne was quite magnificent as he controlled his penalty area and Sean St. Ledger, making his debut, was an able accomplice while Kevin Kilbane stepped up after his first half mistake to play his part in Ireland's defiance in face of growing pressure.

John O'Shea capped a great season with Manchester United by filling the right-back role with total effectiveness. His mastery of the dangerous Martin Petrov was critical and his assuredness on the ball was a source of great confidence to Ireland.

Still the measure of Bulgaria's control of the second half was evident as their defenders joined the attack in numbers. Centre-back Stoyanov found the time and space to come forward and hammer a shot from 35 yards narrowly over the Irish crossbar with goalkeeper Given calling on his colleagues to put more pressure on the ball-carrier.

Ireland were unable to show in attack in the second half, however, and partly that was due to the fact that Robbie Keane was suffering from the injury that kept him out of training this week.

His injury had been identified as a trapped never in his foot and after bravely fighting to help Ireland in their rearguard action, he finally conceded that he could run no further and was replaced by Leon Best after 74 minutes.

Ireland also introduced Aiden McGeady for Hunt as they sought to find the ball-carriers to help lift the siege on their defence but their cause was not helped when the outstanding John O'Shea was caught late in a tackle from Kishishev in the 78th minute.

After trying to run off the injury he had to call for a substitute and Stephen Kelly (Birmingham City) was introduced in his place.

All of Bulgaria's pressured counted for nothing against an heroic Irish defence in which Dunne was absolutely brilliant and was superbly supported by his colleagues.

St. Ledger had a notable introduction to competitive international football and Stephen Kelly showed maturity and confidence when he came in for the injured O'Shea.

So Ireland succeeded in denying Bulgaria a winning goal after a performance that owed much to the excellent organisation and the general willingness of the players to work themselves to a standstill in Ireland's cause.

Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews were largely confined to defensive roles and they worked so effectively that Bulgaria were unable to get a clear sight of Shay Given's goal.

They were close to a winner only once and that came in the 57th minute when Stilian Petrov played a great ball over the top of the Irish defence for Berbatov. For once Berbatov was clear but he failed to control the ball and Given was out quickly to grab possession.

So Ireland succeeded for the first time in four visits to Sofia to avoid defeat. And after seven competitive matches in twelve months they remain unbeaten under Giovanni Trapattoni.

It was all good news from Sofia for Ireland and it might have been better still as Aiden McGeady broke forward to find the room to hammer a shot that was narrowly wide in the first minute of added time.


Bulgaria: Ivanko; Milanov, Tomasic, Stoyanov, Kishishev; Telkiyski, Stilian Petrov, Angelov, Martin Petrov; Berbatov, Bojinov. Substitutes: Substitutes: Makriev for Bojinov 59; Georgiev for Martin Petrov 61; Dimitrov for Telkiyski 81.
Republic of Ireland: Shay Given (Manchester City); John O'Shea (Manchester United), Sean St. Ledger (Preston North End), Richard Dunne (Manchester City), Kevin Kilbane (Hull City); Damien Duff (Newcastle United), Glenn Whelan (Stoke City), Keith Andrews (Blackburn Rovers), Stephen Hunt (Reading); Caleb Folan (Hull City), Robbie Keane (Tottenham Hotspur). Substitutes: Aiden McGeady (Celtic) for Hunt 70; Stephen kelly (Birmingham City) for O'Shea 81; Leon Best (Coventry City) for Keane 74.
Referee: Mr. K. P. Larsen (Denmark).