Football: Kilbane saves day after two sent off

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The Independent Online
Yugoslavia Under-21 1 Rep of Ireland Under-21 1

IAN EVANS, the Republic of Ireland Under-21 manager, was furious with his two red-carded players even though Kevin Kilbane's stoppage- time penalty rescued a point in yesterday's draw with Yugoslavia.

Kilbane saved the Republic's unbeaten European Championship record after they had two men sent off in the first 50 minutes of a spiteful match. Millwall's Robbie Ryan and Middlesbrough's Steve Baker were both dismissed as Yugoslavia threatened to over-run the Irish youngsters after taking the lead in the sixth minute through a curling free-kick from Partizan Belgrade's Vladimir Ivic.

They were down to nine men five minutes into the second half when Baker was shown a red card for a crude hack at the defender Milnojo Vitiakic, who had been booked just four minutes earlier for fouling striker Alan Lee.

Ryan had already gone off 13 minutes before the interval for a second bookable foul on Yugoslavia's rugged midfielder Ivan Vukomanovic but neither offence looked as bad as a subsequent one by Henad Dzodic which took out Baker in full flow.

"We are getting into a bad habit of losing players to red cards, and I'm not very happy about it," Evans said. "We had to play against Croatia a couple of months ago with 10 men for 45 minutes, and it's very hard when that happens. You can't plan your strategy for that kind of thing happening, especially when it is two players who go off.

"We got away with it in the end with a penalty, but if it [the penalty] had happened to us I wouldn't have been very happy. The sooner we can get through a match with all 11 players still on the pitch the better."

Evans' team went into the game already without striker Barry Conlon, who is currently serving a three-match ban. Now Ryan, dismissed against Yugoslavia for two bookable offences, faces a one-match suspension for the game in Macedonia in March while Baker could receive a two-match ban for his red card, which came early in the second half.

Evans clearly had little sympathy with either of the pair. Ryan's dismissal looked harsh, but Evans said: "His second tackle was just the same as the first, and so he should have known better."

The Irish were under pressure for much of the game. The West Ham reserve goalkeeper Alex O'Reilly saved splendidly to deny Sasa Ilic's close-range strike and the Yugoslavs spurned a series of other chances, including one when O'Reilly was beaten by Mateja Kezman's shot but saw the ball come back off the post.

There had looked to be no way back for the Irish once Ivic clipped home his free-kick. But two minutes into injury time, the Belgian referee, Luc Huyghe, pointed to the spot when Yugoslavia's Vladimir Maitajasevic appeared to handle a cross from Lee.

Kilbane kept his head despite the baying crowd behind the goal which had sporadically been involved in fighting among themselves, and directed the penalty low into the corner of the net. It was a suitable reward for Kilbane, who had worked tirelessly in a left-sided front running role.

YUGOSLAVIA UNDER-21: Topalovic; Dudic (Maitajasevic, 46), Vitiakic, Vukomanovic, Dzodic, Urumov, Vukic (Mitlovic, 53), Ivic, Pantilic (Iliev, 68), Ilic, Kezman. Substitutes not used: Avramov, Limonjic, Enkovic, Ivanovic.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND UNDER-21: O'Reilly; Boxall (Barry-Murphy, 43), Ryan, Worrell, Coughlan (Darcy, 39), Dunne, Mahon (Inman, 59), Morgan, Lee, Baker, Kilbane. Substitutes not used: Clare, Grant, O'Connor, Folan.

Referee: L Huyghe (Belgium).