Belfast Telegraph

Relieved O'Shea hails fightback as Republic end on a high note

INPHO

Republic of Ireland defender John O'Shea praised his side's "fantastic" response after they overturned an early deficit to beat Kazakhstan 3-1 in their final World Cup qualifier.

Kazakhstan took a spectacular 13th-minute lead through Dmitriy Shomko's 25-yard strike at the Aviva Stadium, but the Republic hit back in style, with Robbie Keane levelling from the penalty spot just four minutes later and O'Shea putting the hosts ahead just before the half-hour mark.

A late own goal from that man Shomko sealed the win for the Republic as they finished a disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign on a high note under interim boss Noel King.

O'Shea said: "We would have liked a clean sheet but it was a hell of a strike from the lad to put us a goal behind, but I thought the reaction straight away from the lads was fantastic.

"Noel said to us beforehand that whatever happens, if they score a great goal or whatever, keep your heads up and play properly.

"We got the rewards from it and we could have scored even more."

Regarding the goal, his first at international level in a decade, O'Shea added: "The goal gave us a bit of relief because we started quite well but their goal upset us a bit, but the reaction was fantastic and we gave the crowd a little something to cheer."

Looking to the future and who he would like to take over on a permanent basis, O'Shea said: "We want someone positive, we want someone who knows us all.

"Whoever gets it, gets it, and they know they'll have a good group of lads to work from and a team that's hungry to qualify for the European Championships."

It was not all good news for the Republic though as midfielder Darron Gibson was carried off on a stretcher with suspected knee ligament damage.

James McCarthy, who is a club-mate of Gibson's at Everton, said: "Hopefully he's okay, we wish him a speedy recovery.

"If he's out for a long time – hopefully he's not – it would be a massive blow for club and country."

O'Shea (32) struck for just the second time in 93 appearances as the Republic gave themselves an excellent chance of being seeded in the second group for the Euro 2016 draw.

Miroslav Beranek's men had threatened to ruin the home side's evening by taking a 13th-minute lead in spectacular style when Shomko lashed home an unstoppable shot from 25 yards.

But as so often in the past, the Republic were able to rely upon returning skipper Keane to get them out of trouble.

The 33-year-old, who missed Friday night's 3-0 Group C defeat in Germany with an ankle injury, converted a 16th-minute penalty for his 61st international goal.

However it was O'Shea who fired the Republic ahead from point-blank range as he pounced on keeper Andrey Sidelnikov's 26th-minute error.

The home side might have increased their lead on several occasions before Shomko turned substitute Aiden McGeady's cross into his own goal.

It all meant King emerged from his two-game spell in charge with the win he craved, and with the approach he took vindicated.

It was he who decided to call up midfielder Andy Reid and striker Anthony Stokes, who had been discarded by Giovanni Trapattoni, with Reid in particular making the most of his first game for his country since November 2007.

Alexander Kislitsyn met Reid's free-kick with his hand inside the penalty area and Latvia referee Vadims Direktorenko pointed to the spot, Keane converting.

The Republic disappointed in Kazakhstan when they needed Keane and Kevin Doyle to get them out of jail as both struck inside the final two minutes to snatch a 2-1 victory from the jaws of a 1-0 defeat but on this night they deserved the plaudits coming their way.

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