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Draw dents Ireland's Euro hopes

Hollywood newcomer Robbie Keane fluffed his lines as he passed up a glorious opportunity to keep Ireland firmly in the race for the Euro 2012 finals in their goalless draw with Slovakia.

The 31-year-old LA Galaxy striker, who missed a penalty in the reverse fixture in October, headed wide from just five yards with 16 minutes of a distinctly uncomfortable contest against Slovakia remaining to let slip a victory his side never really deserved.

Substitute Simon Cox was similarly wasteful after being set up by Keane six minutes from time as the hosts conceded two points to Russia in the race to top Group B.

A record sixth successive clean sheet was little consolation to Trapattoni's men as a must-win game yielded only a point, and their dejection was clear as they trudged off the pitch at the Aviva Stadium with boos ringing in their ears.

Slovakia left Dublin by far the happier, and Ireland could yet find themselves in third place in the group on Tuesday night if Vladimir Weiss' side better their result when they face Armenia in Zilina.

Ireland were disjointed to say the least, and as Slovakia grew in confidence, it was they who looked the more likely to open the scoring. Given was grateful to see Vladimir Weiss Junior, the manager's son, fire straight at him with 19 minutes gone, and the Aston Villa man had to get down well to his left nine minutes later to claw Filip Holosko's header out of the bottom corner.

But it was the hosts who created the best opening of the first half, although they had to wait until the 38th minute to do so. Damien Duff came off the right wing to play a one-two with Keith Andrews and continued his run into the box to receive the return pass.

Duff's left-foot shot clipped Martin Skrtel on its way to goal, but the deflection failed to wrong-foot keeper Jan Mucha, who managed to beat it away. Duff then fired over the angle of bar and post with 58 minutes gone, but his side would have been behind three minutes later had Sean St Ledger not blocked Hamsik's goal-bound shot with his chest after Holosko had got in behind Richard Dunne and teed up his captain.

Trapattoni introduced Cox as a 64th-minute replacement for Kevin Doyle, but with Weiss terrorising the home defence, Given was seeing far more of the ball than Mucha.

However, the chance of which Keane would have dreamt finally arrived with 16 minutes remaining when Duff curled in the perfect cross from the right wing, but he nodded wide before Cox wasted another good chance.


From Belfast Telegraph