Robbie Keane’s marvelous scoring record continues in draw against Nigeria
Republic of Ireland 1-1 Nigeria
Robbie Keane 38 Michael Eneramo 30
Republic of Ireland captain Robbie Keane scored his 39th International goal as Ireland came from behind to draw against Nigeria at Craven Cottage in Friday night’s friendly game. Keane found the net, his fourth time to score in the last five matches, eight minutes after Michael Eneramo had put Nigeria ahead on the half hour mark,
Leon Best, one of five debutants in the Irish starting line-up, was straight into the action, feeding off a through ball by Robbie Keane but goalkeeper Austin Ejide raced from his goal-line to clear, winning a free-kick for his troubles.
Liam Miller conceded a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area with nine minutes elapsed but John Utaka’s effort was blocked by the defensive wall.
Three minutes later, Nigeria defender Sam Sodje got across to head away for a corner just as Ireland's centre-half Sean St. Ledger appeared poised to nod home a cross from the right by Eddie Nolan.
The Africans regrouped and Shay Given had to retreat swiftly to tip over a quickly-taken 30 yard free kick by Kalu Uche.
The front partnership of Best and Keane was showing signs of cohesion and the Coventry striker was denied a shot on goal by Sodje’s saving tackle on 28 minutes.
From the resulting corner, Best flicked onto the unmarked Keane but the Irish skipper completely missed his volley and the danger was cleared.
Nigeria went ahead on the half hour on the back of a flowing move originated by Utaka. The Portsmouth attacker spotted Olubayo Adefemi raiding forward from his right-back position and when the defender delivered a low cross, Michael Eneramo was first to react and swept the ball home from eight yards.
The Irish searched for a goal and Best came close to drawing level as his header clipped the outside of the post after 36 minutes.
Two minutes later, Ireland drew level. Damien Duff won the ball on the left, passing to Liam Miller whose flick released Keith Andrews into space. Robbie Keane ran behind the defence to collect Andrews’ threaded pass and rounded Ejide before tapping into an empty net.
Giovanni Trapattoni clearly had Saturday week's World Cup qualifier in Sofia against Bulgaria in mind when he replaced Keane, Duff and Given at the break.
Keiren Westwood swapped with Given in goal for his debut cap, Shane Long went into attack alongside Best, while McGeady patrolled the left flank.
Long conjured an early opening in the second half, capitalising on Ejide’s hesitancy as Best charged down the goalkeeper’s attempted clearance. The Reading striker tried a lob but the ‘keeper scampered back to palm away for a corner.
The introduction of McGeady brought some exuberance to the left flank and, following one of his trademark dribbles with 20 minutes left, the Celtic flanker veered a drive wide of the far post.
Westwood had little to do as the pace dropped off but the newcomer looked assured behind a defence that finished the game with Paul McShane at right-back, having replaced Foley on 71 minutes.
Republic of Ireland: Shay Given (Manchester City); Kevin Foley (Wolves), Richard Dunne (Manchester City), Sean St. Ledger (Preston North End), Eddie Nolan (Preston North End); Liam Lawrence (Stoke City), Liam Miller (QPR), Keith Andrews (Blackburn Rovers), Damien Duff (Newcastle United) ; Robbie Keane (Tottenham Hotspur), Leon Best (Coventry City).
Substitutes: Aiden McGeady (Celtic) for Duff, Shane Long (Reading) for Keane and Keiren Westwood (Coventry City) for Given (all half-time), Glenn Whelan (Stoke City) for Andrews (59 mins), Paul McShane (Sunderland) for Foley (71 mins), Stephen Hunt (Reading) for Lawrence (81 mins).
Nigeria: Ejide; Adefemi, Sodje, Mohammed, Olofinjana; Aluko (Obinna 61 mins), Uche, Adeleye, Utaka; Akpala (Odemwingle 61 mins), Eneramo.
Referee: W. Collum.