Robbie Keane's Republic of Ireland let two points slip at home to Bulgaria
By Lyle Jackson
A 74th-minute own goal by Kevin Kilbane saw the Republic of Ireland drop two precious World Cup qualifying points at home to Bulgaria in Dublin on Saturday.
Kilbane diverted Stiliyan Petrov's pull back into the net after the Irish had led for most of the match.
Richard Dunne headed Ireland's goal in the first minute after John O'Shea had flicked on Stephen Hunt's free-kick.
The draw means Giovanni Trapattoni's side are now two points behind Italy who they play away on Wednesday.
But the Republic will feel they should still have been level with the group leaders as they had chances to add to the lead given to them by Dunne after just 35 seconds.
Bulgarian keeper Dimitar Ivankov made good saves from Robbie Keane and Aiden McGeaty in the second half.
But Bulgaria responded to put the home side under pressure and that eventually brought the equaliser.
Radostin Kishishev's deep ball from pulled back by Petrov and the unfortunate Kilbane could not get out of the way.
The Republic's early goal had come after Hunt was fouled by Iliyan Stoyanov.
The Reading midfielder took the free-kick himself and his cross ball from the left was nodded on by O'Shea for central defensive partner Dunne to head in near the far post.
As Bulgaria attempted to hit back quickly, Aston Villa midfielder Stiliyan Petrov thumped a fourth-minute shot from 25 yards towards the top corner of Shay Given's net but Given pulled off a good save.
Midfielder Keith Andrews had a scare with 16 minutes gone when Zhivko Milanov went to ground under his challenge inside the penalty area, but Croatian referee Ivan Bebek booked the full-back for diving as he was carried off on a stretcher.
However, Bulgaria could have equalised with 27 minutes gone when Stanislav Manolev slipped past left-back Kevin Kilbane and squared the ball for the unmarked Blagoy Georgiev 15 yards out but his shot was too close to Given who saved.
Just before the hour mark Robbie Keane threatened a second Irish goal but keeper Dimitar Ivankov made a fine close-range save.
Ivankov had to be alert again to deny Aiden McGeady as the Irish mounted a period of pressure.
But then came the equaliser which stunned the Croke Park crowd and which means Bulgaria have drawn all four of their matches so far.
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