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Page last updated at 19:26 GMT, Saturday, 6 June 2009 20:26 UK

Bulgaria 1-1 Republic of Ireland

By Lyle Jackson

Keith Andrews gives chase to Bulgaria's Dimitar Berbatov
Keith Andrews gives chase to Bulgaria's Dimitar Berbatov in Sofia

The Republic of Ireland picked up a valuable World Cup qualifying point with a decent display in Sofia.

A win would have put the Irish top of Group Eight but they will be satisfied with the draw which keeps them five points ahead of third-placed Bulgaria.

Richard Dunne stole in unmarked to head the Republic into the lead in the 24th minute from Stephen Hunt's free-kick.

But a defensive blunder by Kevin Kilbane let Dimitar Telkiyski in for the equaliser five minutes later.

Giovanni Trapattoni's side were on the back foot for most of the second half, much in contrast to the encouraging way they had started the match.

Home keeper Dimitar Ivankov was forced to make early saves from a Hunt header and a Caleb Folan shot as the Irish carved early openings.

However, the visitors were given a warning when Dimitar Berbatov looped a header just over from a threatening position.

Ireland got the breakthrough in the 24th minute when Hunt won a free-kick wide on the left.

The Reading man swung in the set-piece and Dunne advanced unopposed to plant a firm header past Ivankov.

But the lead lasted a mere five minutes as a blunder by Kevin Kilbane handed the Bulgarians their equaliser.

Kilbane, whose own goal gave the Bulgarians a 1-1 draw in Dublin in March, made a mess of clearing a speculative ball forward and Telkiyski took advantage by shooting home.

The goal visibly lifted Bulgaria and they went close again eight minutes before the break when Valeri Bojinov sent in a snap shot from inside the box and Dunne headed clear in front of his own goal as Given looked on anxiously.

For the first time, Ireland were looking uneasy, and Dunne had to intervene once again with four minutes of the half remaining with Bojinov about to pull the trigger.

Bulgaria looked for the winner they so desperately needed to boost their qualification prospects.

But a disciplined Irish side did well to limit the number of chances falling the home side's way.

The Irish wall did its job to keep out substitute Blagoy Georgiev's 77th-minute free-kick in a tense finish, with Bulgaria dominating possession but meeting stern resistance all the way to the whistle.

Aiden McGeady flashed a shot side as the match entered four minutes of stoppage-time during which the Bulgarians pressed in vain for a last-ditch winner.

The Republic, who still have not lost a competitive game under Trapattoni, are now one point behind Group Eight leaders Italy but they have played a game more.

Bulgaria: Ivankov, Milanov, Stoyanov, Tomasic, Kishishev, Angelov, Stiliyan Petrov, Telkiyski, Berbatov, Martin Petrov, Bojinov.
Subs: Mihailov, Todorov, Dimitrov, Topuzakov, Domovchiyski, Makriev, Georgiev.

Republic of Ireland: Given, O'Shea, St. Ledger, Dunne, Kilbane, Duff, Whelan, Andrews, Hunt, Keane, Folan.
Subs: Henderson, McGeady, Miller, Kelly, Best, Keogh, Nolan.

Referee: Claus Bo Larsen (Denmark)

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see also
Republic ready for hostile Sofia
05 Jun 09 |  Internationals
Rep of Ireland 1-1 Nigeria
29 May 09 |  Internationals
Trapattoni happy with debutants
29 May 09 |  Internationals
Keeper Kiely in Republic walkout
28 May 09 |  Internationals
Doyle out of Republic qualifier
26 May 09 |  Internationals
Lawrence handed Republic call-up
18 May 09 |  Internationals

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