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banner Thursday, 15 November, 2001, 17:01 GMT
Irish earn finals place
David Connolly started the match in place of the injured Niall Quinn
Ireland's David Connolly attempts a break
Iran 1-0 Republic of Ireland
(Ireland win 2-1 on aggregate)

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A narrow defeat for the Republic of Ireland was enough to ensure their place in next year's World Cup Finals.

The Irish produced a thoroughly professional performance for the most part although their concentration did slip in injury-time when Yahya Golmohammadi headed Iran's goal.

However in reality, the Republic rarely looked like conceding the two-goal advantage earned on Saturday in Dublin.

Shay Given was again a hero for Mick McCarthy's team with a number of excellent saves.

However, central midfielders Mark Kinsella and Matt Holland were magnificent for the Irish while Steve Staunton was exceptional in the centre of defence.

Ali Karimi gave the Irish an early scare by comfortably strolling past Breen and Mahdavikia then dangerously cut inside Harte before running the ball out of play.

Ireland's Robbie Keane looked lively early on
Robbie Keane is on a charge

However, the Irish produced some initial moves of their own with Robbie Keane just failing to find the unmarked Jason McAteer in the Iranian penalty area.

Ali Daei was presented with the first chance of the match in the 11th minute but the home player pushed his shot well-wide from an acute angle.

A Mark Kinsella header in the 14th minute was Ireland's first goal attempt but the effort was easily grasped by Iranian goalkeeper Mirzapour.

Iran were adopting a much more offensive formation than in the first leg.

However poor final passes meant the Irish were able to defend comfortably for most of the opening quarter.

On the half hour, Mahdavikia produced the first decent Iranian cross but from a good position Daei headed wide from eight yards after he had outjumped Steve Finnan.

Given, so reliable in Dublin, then caused nervousness for the Irish in the 32nd minute when he spilled a harmless-looking cross and then appeared to pull Kavianpour back.

Connolly miss

A minute later, Karimi missed a glorious chance for the home side when he directed a header wide from inside the Irish six-yard box with Given beaten.

The remainder of the first half was largely dull with the Irish managing to subdue the 120,000 home crowd.

Mick McCarthy's side had another escape in the 51st minute when Mahdavikia was inches wide with a great opportunity from the edge of the penalty area.

However, a minute later Connolly missed a good opportunity for the Irish when he hit the sidenetting from inside the Iran penalty area after a neat through ball from Keane.

With the match starting to open up, Shay Given had to produce a great double save to deny the Iranians in the 55th minute.

Bagheri latched onto Given's own punched clearance and the Newcastle goalkeeper did brilliantly to block the low shot and then push the ball away for a corner.

Connolly showed some neat touches in the first half
Connolly battles with Yahya Golmohammadi

The Irish goalkeeper performed heroics again in the 65th minute when he blocked a powerful drive from Minavand.

With the Irish defending deeper, Iran continued to press and Nikbakht Vahedi cut inside Finnan in the 67th minute only to produce another poor cross from the byeline.

Robbie Keane's yellow card for dissent early in the second half may have contributed to Mick McCarthy's decision to withdraw the Leeds striker with 15 minutes left.

Clinton Morrison came on for the Irish and he was immediately fouled by Peyrovani.

Iran squandered another opportunity in the 79th minute with Mahdavikia failing to find Daei in the Irish six-yard box after he had outpaced Harte.

McCarthy made another change in the 81st minute with Gary Kelly introduced for Kevin Kilbane.

There seemed to be little chance that the Irish goal would be breached but Golmohammadi did head Iran's goal in the second minute of injury-time.

An earlier goal would have caused huge nervousness for the Irish but instead the referee called time a minute later.

Iran: Mirzapour; Mahdavikia, Minavand, Peyrovani, Bagheri, Kavianpour, Karimi, Daei, Nikbakht Vahedi, Golmohammadi, Rezaei.

Republic of Ireland: Given, Finnan, Breen, Staunton, Harte, McAteer, Kinsella, Holland, Kilbane, Robbie Keane, Connolly.

Referee: William M. Mattus Vega (Costa Rica).

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's Simon Brotherton
"Ireland held their nerve"
Republic boss Mick McCarthy
"What a wonderful World Cup campaign"
Ireland midfielder Matt Holland
"Over the course of the qualifying campaign, we've deserved this"
Ireland's Ian Harte
"Against Portugal and Holland we've shown we can play against the best in the world."
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