Ireland pay for poor finishing

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Liechtenstein 0

Republic of Ireland 0

Attendance: 4,500

THE road to England and next summer's European Championship finals yesterday took the Republic of Ireland to one of the continent's more obscure footballing outposts, where they allowed the team from the tiny principality of Liechtenstein to claim their first point in international competition.

The picture-postcard surroundings may have distracted the spectators, but there was no excuse for the visiting players, who struggled in vain to break down the limited home defence. Irish attacks were all too often cut out by the sweeper, Daniel Hasler, the hero yesterday as in April last year, when he scored his country's first goal in tournament football on their visit to Belfast. Having lost their last two games 7- 0 and 8-0, it is easy to see why this draw was greeted with such jubilation.

On the rare occasions that Hasler was beaten yesterday, Martin Heeb, an agile goalkeeper, came to the rescue. John Aldridge set the pattern by heading a John Sheridan cross just wide. The Tranmere striker then tested Heeb from 20 yards, as did Jason McAteer with a shot from greater range.

The Irish stepped up the pace after the break but still they were frustrated: Hasler kicked McAteer's shot off the line. Tony Cascarino came on for Niall Quinn but could not improve matters; he blazed wide from close range when it seemed easier to score.

Deep in injury time Staunton slammed a free-kick just too high. It was that sort of evening for the Irish but, for their exultant hosts, the whistle sparked wild celebrations - followed by a standing ovation for the home players from the Irish fans - as the sun set over the mountains.

Liechtenstein: Heeb (Schaan); Hanselmann (Balzers), J Ospelt (Vaduz), W Ospelt (Vaduz); Hasler (Vaduz), Telser (Balzers), Ritter (Vaduz), Hilti (Eschen/Mauren), Frick (St Gallen), H Zech (Vaduz), Burgmaier (Eschen/Mauren). Subs: J Zech (Eschen/Mauren) for J Ospelt, 31; Marxer (Eschen/Mauren) for W Ospelt, 59.

Republic of Ireland: A Kelly (Sheffield United); G Kelly (Leeds United), Irwin (Manchester United), Babb (Liverpool), McGrath (Aston Villa), Whelan (Southend United), McAteer (Bolton Wanderers), Aldridge (Tranmere Rovers), Quinn (Manchester City), Sheridan (Sheffield Wednesday), Staunton (Aston Villa). Subs: Cascarino (Marseille) for Quinn, 59; Kenna (Blackburn Rovers) for McAteer, 72.

Referee: C Agius (Malta).