07.02.2007 at 19:45 Serravalle Stadium, San Marino
1 - 2
Republic of Ireland
Referee: Pete Rasmussen(Denmark)
World Cup Qualifier / PROG-match
Davide Simoncini 17,
Andy Selva 35,
San Marino 1 Rep of Irealnd 2
Stephen Ireland's last-gasp goal spared Republic of Ireland major embarrassment as they beat San Marino 2-1 in their Euro 2008 qualifier.
Ireland's miserable Euro 2008 qualifying campaign looked to be plunging to new depths when Manuel Marani's late goal cancelled out Kevin Kilbane's opener, but Manchester City midfielder Ireland's injury-time strike got his country and Steve Staunton out of jail.
The win moves Ireland into third spot in Group D, but the defeat will be heartbreak for San Marino who were on the verge of their greatest ever result.
Ireland attacked from the outset and they created their first opening on four minutes when Damien Duff hit a weak shot straight at San Marino goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini.
Ian Harte then tried his luck with a free-kick from the edge of the box which Simoncini managed to scramble away and he was on hand to save Duff's follow-up effort.
The visitors really should have broken the deadlock on 15 minutes when Ireland sent Robbie Keane clear on goal, but with only Simoncini to beat the Irish skipper drove his shot just wide of the target.
San Marino were beginning to frustrate Ireland and they were restricting them to long-range efforts as they defended deeply.
Keane had another half chance on the half hour when Kevin Kilbane teed him up, but the Spurs hit-man drove his effort wide.
Ireland continued to push forward in search of the crucial breakthrough and Richard Dunne went close when he powered Duff's corner just over the crossbar.
Kilbane had the last chance of the first half when he flashed a shot just wide of the target as San Marino held on to go in level at the break.
Ireland came out for the second half in determined fashion and they finally made the breakthrough on 49 minutes with Kilbane netting his seventh international goal. Steve Finnan flighted over a cross which debutant Shane Long flicked on for Kilbane to nod home from close-range.
Ireland really should have doubled their lead on 56 minutes when Duff worked his way past two San Marino defenders and sent in a cross which Keane somehow failed to convert from close-range.
Wayne Henderson was called into the action for the first time on 66 minutes when he was forced to get down to Manuel Marani's dangerous low cross.
But Marani then stunned Ireland four minutes from time when he grabbed an unlikely equaliser after a defensive mix-up between Henderson and Dunne.
Ireland poured forward in the closing stages in search of a winner and they saved themselves when Ireland popped up four minutes into injury-time to grab the winner with almost the last kick of the game.
Republic of Ireland boss Steve Staunton says his side displayed "tremendous fighting spirit" to beat San Marino 2-1 and move to third in Euro 2008 Group D.
"We controlled the game from start to finish and could have scored six or seven but we were sloppy at the back.
"We should have been three or four up at the break but didn't put away our chances so we need to be more ruthless.
"We had four chances after they scored and thankfully scored one. We have two big games to look forward to at home."
The Republic boss argued that "San Marino were always going to improve as the group went on" despite the minnows having conceded 25 goals in their first three qualifying matches.
"The lads are disappointed with the performance but I am delighted to get the three points with two matches at Croke Park to come."
Goalscorer Kevin Kilbane conceded he was "very disappointed" and added that the Republic players got "the fright of their lives".
"There are a lot of things we can learn from that. We didn't pass the ball well and it is up to the older players like myself to bring the younger lads through.
"After the first goal it would have been nice to go on and score a few more but a horrendous mistake at the back almost cost us dear.
"I can understand why the supporters are not happy because the players are not happy with performances like that and we have to improve a lot."
The Wigan player refused to lay the blame at the feet of manager Staunton, saying that the players had to take responsibility.
"The players have to go out there and give a good account of ourselves but we didn't do that and didn't bring any credit to the manager or ourselves.
"We wanted to put on a show and give ourselves some confidence for the two games at Croke Park but at least we got the win and it is back to the drawing board now."
San Marino: Aldo Simoncini; Valentini, Albani, Davide Simoncini, Muccioli, Micheloe Marani, Bonini (Vannucci 77), Domeniconi, Gasparoni (Andreini 60), Manuel Marani, Selva
Republic of Ireland: Henderson; Finnan, Dunne, O’Shea (McShane 46), Harte (Hunt 74); Duff, Carsley, Ireland, Kilbane; Keane, Long (Stokes 81).