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banner Saturday, 10 November, 2001, 21:54 GMT
Irish given lifeline by Shay
Shay Given prevented Iran from scoring a vital away goal
Shay Given made two magnificent second half saves
BBC Sport Online's Lyle Jackson says Shay Given's contribution in denying Iran an away goal could prove vital for the Republic of Ireland

Is it enough?

That was the question being asked at Lansdowne Road after Saturday night's first leg of the World Cup play-off.

The Republic of Ireland take a 2-0 lead to Tehran for Thursday's decisive second leg.

And they should be grateful for it.

The fact that Newcastle goalkeeper Shay Given was voted man of the match tells its own story.

Just after Robbie Keane had shot Ireland into a two-goal lead early in the second half, Given made two crucial saves, both from Iran's nimble Ali Karimi.

Ian Harte's penalty came a minute before the interval
Ian Harte scores the first half penalty

And seven minutes before the end of the match, Karim Bagheri shot wastefully wide from a glorious position.

So it could have been a lot worse for the Republic.

The intimidating Azadi stadium in Tehran is, by all accounts, not the location you would choose when attempting to defend a 2-1 lead.

The Irish jitters are still there.

Of course, they always fancied their chances against Iran.

But there was a nervousness about the Republic's performance.

And the unease will not have been calmed much by this result.

Play-offs have become a recurring nightmare for the Republic of Ireland.


Perhaps the decision to include a four-page supporters' guide to Korea and Japan was not premature
Lyle Jackson
Their last three campaigns have ended agonisingly at this final hurdle and a repetition does not bear thinking about.

The Irish fans are convinced it is their destiny to be at the World Cup finals in Korea and Japan.

The expectation which had been building up all week climaxed when the teams emerged to be greeted by the famous Lansdowne roar.

The army band may have been playing but no-one could hear them as the Irish fans sang "Come on the boys in green" to the tune of the old pop hit Those Were the Days.

But as the first half wore on, the fervour began to wane.

It looked like half-time would arrive without a goal.

But then came Harte's 45th minute penalty and the Republic fans believed they were on their way.

Perhaps, the decision to include a four-page supporters' guide to Korea and Japan was not premature after all.

Then in the 51st minute Robbie Keane was performing his customary celebratory cartwheel after putting McCarthy's team 2-0 ahead.

Robbie Keane came good for the Republic of Ireland in the second half
Robbie Keane hammers in Ireland's second goal

But then Ireland got careless and 32,000 fans held their collective breath as a defensive slip let Ali Karimi through.

Given saved and performed more heroics within seconds to deny the same player.

If the Republic qualify, they will not just have the Leeds United goalscorers to thank.

Given's contribution in denying Iran an away goal could prove to be the difference.

The public address announcer mistakenly declared there would be four minutes added time.

Actually, there were only two, but you could forgive the guy's wishful thinking.

Ireland really wanted a third goal to take to Tehran.

However, the Irish have cause to remain optimistic.

They have now gone 16 games unbeaten and have scored in every one of them.

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