International Friendly: England 1 Republic of Ireland 1
By Football News
England were held to a 1-1 draw by the Republic of Ireland at Wembley on Wednesday in the sides' first meeting since 1995.
Shane Long gave the visitors the perfect start to the friendly encounter, directing a header home after an incredible leap above the England defence inside the first quarter of an hour . And, though Frank Lampard soon levelled from close range, Ireland evidenced their character, producing a dogged defensive display to earn a share of the spoils.
England had earlier named Ashley Cole as captain of a team which contained both Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Daniel Sturridge, in recognition of the 100th cap the full-back earned against Brazil back in February.
Ireland, meanwhile, started with Robbie Keane up front and Premier League stars James McCarthy, Shane Long and Jonathan Walters all involved.
Both teams contributed little to what was an unsurprisingly fractious start to the contest, with the Wembley crowd seeing little in the way of goalscoring opportunities. But there was a sizeable twist with just 13 minutes on the clock, as the visitors took a shock lead. West Brom striker Long leapt above Glen Johnson to glance a superb right-wing delivery from Everton's Seamus Coleman past Joe Hart and into the corner of the net.
That lead lasted little more than eight minutes, though, as Chelsea's record goalscorer Lampard demonstrated his finishing prowess by prodding home from close range after Sturridge's low cross had deflected off John O'Shea and Sean St. Ledger.
The hosts suffered a blow just after the half-hour mark which somewhat sullied their lead, as Sturridge was forced off due to injury and replaced by Jermain Defoe.
But England went close again soon after through Oxlade-Chamberlain, who hit a half-chance straight at David Forde to ensure the teams went in at the break level.
Roy Hodgson made two changes at the interval, Phil Jones replacing Johnson at right-back and Ben Foster coming in for Hart in goal. And England looked decidedly brighter as a result, only being denied the lead when Coleman desperately cleared a Walcott cross over his own bar after the winger had latched onto a delicately placed ball from Rooney.
Lampard hit another effort wide of the goal and Walcott forced a strong save from Forde in the immediate aftermath, but Giovanni Trapattoni's charges continued to hold firm. Still, England refused to give up hope of taking victory and, if not for the reflexes of Forde, they would have succeeded in their task.
The Millwall stopper proved to be the saviour for the visitors, producing two fine late saves from Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott to preserve the stalemate and send the Irish fans home happy.