Republic of Ireland 1 Cyprus 1: Finnan's strike fails to save Staunton from another fine mess

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The defiant Republic of Ireland manager, Steve Staunton, vowed to resist calls for him to quit after his side's embarrassing draw with Cyprus in their European Championship qualifier at Croke Park.

Only Steve Finnan's injury-time goal rescued the Irish from one of the worst home defeats in their history after Stelios Okkarides headed the visitors into a shock 80th-minute lead.

But it did not prevent Staunton from being on the end of a barrage of boos from the home fans as his side's qualifying campaign continued to peter out in dismal fashion.

But Staunton, who has two years left on his four-year contract, insisted: "I've been given the job and I'm going to see it through. It will get better when we get a full-strength squad."

Staunton conceded Finnan's equaliser had allowed his side to "get out of jail" and went on to deliver a blunt appraisal of a performance which he admitted the supporters had every right to criticise.

Staunton said: "They have every right to boo. We didn't pass the ball, we didn't get get hold of it and we didn't mark. We didn't do anything tonight."

With Paul McShane and Stephen Hunt starting after suspension, Staunton had good reason to start positively and the reshuffled Irish side did just that with both Kevin Doyle and Reid hitting shots which tested Cyprus goalkeeper Antonis Georgallides.

In the 15th minute, Keane wriggled through the visiting defence and looked set for a shot on goal before a superb saving challenge from Alexandros Garpozis. Stanton said of his striker: "At this moment, Robbie can't hit a barn door for us."

And as the minutes ticked by the home crowd grew increasingly frustrated and with Cyprus growing in confidence, Yiasoumis Yiasoumis twice narrowly failed to get on the end of crosses.

Cyprus came close to causing embarrassment for the host two minutes before the break when Hunt's attempted punt towards the box ricocheted off a visiting player and sent three Cyprus players away, racing clear over the halfway line.

With Given charging out of his goal in a vain bid to reach the ball first, Marios Nikolau scuffed his attempted long-distance lob and the ball flew wide.

After the break, the Republic created a fine chance of their own when Reid, trying his hardest to break the deadlock, found Hunt, whose header flashed inches wide of target.

Then Irish nightmare appeared to be realised when Okkarides struck and it was left to Finnan to supply the late drama with virtually the last kick, but the likelihood is it will have been too little, too late to save his manager's job.

Republic of Ireland (4-4-2): Given (Newcastle); Finnan (Liverpool), McShane (Sunderland), J O'Brien (Bolton), Kilbane (Wigan); Keogh (Wolves), O'Shea (Manchester United), Reid (Charlton), Hunt (Reading); Doyle (Reading), Keane (Tottenham). Substitutes used: Miller (Sunderland) for J O'Brien, h-t; McGeady (Celtic) for Keogh, 63; Douglas (Leeds) for Hunt, 74.

Cyprus (4-4-2): Georgallides; Satsias (Marangos, 69), Okkarides, Paraskevas, Charalampidis; Elia, Garpozis, Makridis (Theofilou, 86), Nicolau; Okkas, Yiasoumis (Michail, 73). Substitues used: Morphis, Charalambous, Lambrou, Theodotou

Referee: M Vuorela (Finland).

Group D

Remaining fixtures: 17 Nov: Czech Republic v Slovakia; Germany v Cyprus; Wales v Rep of Ireland. 21 Nov: Cyprus v Czech Republic; Germany v Wales; San Marino v Slovakia.

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