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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Republic of Ireland 2-3 Poland

Giovanni Trapattoni's six-match unbeaten run as Republic of Ireland manager was ended as Poland held on to win in a frantic finish at Croke Park.

Mariusz Lewandowski headed the Poles ahead on three minutes and after Damien Duff missed chances, Roger Guerreiro hit the Polish second goal on 47.

Stephen Hunt replied from a penalty on 87 minutes only for Robert Lewandowski to gloriously reply within two minutes.

Debutant Keith Andrews struck a second Irish goal in injury-time.

It almost appeared as if the home fans were outnumbered at the start and the volume of the Polish noise only increased when Lewandowski outjumped John O'Shea to head the opening goal.

Duff was inches away from levelling within two minutes as he fired over after some neat passing from Darron Gibson and Andy Keogh.

The Irish continued to probe with Caleb Folan showing good pace early on and stretching the Polish defence on a number of occasions.

Duff picked out Folan from a 16th-minute free-kick but the Hull striker's header was straight at Arsenal goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.

Winger Duff squandered a glorious chance to level on 28 minutes when he fired into the sidenetting with his weaker right foot after being played in by a slide-rule Doyle pass.

Good defensive work by Paul McShane then sent Duff charging at the Polish defence in the 38th minute but goalscorer Lewandowski produced a superb tackle to avert the danger.

The Irish had an escape when Pawel Brozek was presented with a chance on 41 minutes but Richard Dunne got back to produce a perfectly timed tackle after his own mistake.

Despite his earlier miss, Duff continued to look dangerous and he charged into the Poland box again on 42 minutes but his curling shot went inches wide.

The Republic were hit with a sucker punch two minutes after the break as half-time substitute Guerreiro fired in Poland's second goal as the home defenders stood off.

The inevitable raft of Republic substitutions started before the hour with Noel Hunt introduced for his first cap with his brother Stephen and Alex Bruce also coming on.

Robert Lewandowski should have made it 3-0 with 59 minutes gone after taking Boguski's pass in his stride but he dinked wide of the post.

Duff had missed the first-half chances but he was the Republic's main attacking threat and his departure after the hour appeared to end any realistic hopes of a Republic comeback.

However, the rejigged home side kept battling and substitute Bruce headed inches wide on 84 while Dariusz Dudka had to produce an acrobatic clearance after a looping Shane Long header.

Long gave the Republic hope when he won a penalty on 87 minutes after being fouled by Tomasz Jodlowiec and Stephen Hunt blasted the spot kick to the net.

Within a minute, Poland had restored the two-goal margin after Robert Lewandowski hammered a 25-yard shot high past Shay Given.

Amazingly, there was another goal in the first minute of injury-time as first cap Andrews thumped a great shot past Fabianski.

The Republic could even have nicked a draw but Folan miskicked after more good work by Stephen Hunt.

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