18.11.1998 at 19:00 Smedarevo
1 - 1
Referee: L Huyghe (Belgium)
European Qualifier / Prog - See senior game-match
Alex O Reilly
Injury-time penalty provides Under-21s with great escape
Yugoslavia 1 Republic of Ireland Under 1
Statto Richard Dunne plays first Under 21 game 18 months after being put on stand by for the Senior squad
Ireland's Under-21s staged their own version of the great escape yesterday when they got away with a most unlikely draw in snowy Smedarevo.
Only this time there were no motorbikes involved, just an injury-time penalty from Kevin Kilbane after Ireland had battled for almost all the second half with only nine men.
Millwall's Robbie Ryan and Stephen Baker of Middlesborough were sent off in a tempestuous match which saw a total of two red cards and seven yellows produced over 95 hectic minutes.
But it was the last-gasp decision of the Belgian referee Luc Huyghe which won the Irish an unlikely point.
He spotted that the Yugoslav substitute Mihavolivic had swept the ball away with his hand when he and Niall Inman were scrambling for the ball in the penalty area.
After a long delay of furious Yugoslav protests, Kilbane coolly stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way.
Despite his team's remarkable fightback, Irish boss Ian Evans was anything but a happy man after the game.
"We had to battle for a half against Croatia with ten men and now we had to play Yugoslavia for 40 minutes with nine men, maybe we can do something in this competition when we can keep all our players on the pitch.
"Neither of the lads can have any complaints about being sent off. Robbie clattered into his man ten minutes after the referee booked him for doing exactly the same thing. Did he not think that he'd get another card?" fumed Evans.
Ireland had got off to a terrible start when the home team's best player Sasa Ilic struck home a beautiful free kick in the sixth minute after Derek Coughlan had fouled Vladimir Ivic just outside the penalty area. That was the start of an unfortunate day for the Cork City man who injured himself making that tackle.
Coughlan had to be replaced midway through the first-half but a couple of minutes later in a defensive re-shuffle after Ryan's dismissal, Brian Barry-Murphy came on for his second cap.
The youngster did very well protecting the Irish left in what became a second-half siege.
But Yugoslavia refused to commit men forward in search of the second goal that would surely have sealed the three points.
They concentrated on shots on goal but most of them were well wide of the Irish goal.
The one time that Yugoslavia tried to play their way through the nine Irish men, they worked a fine move for Ilic to get a free header seven yards out. But West Ham keeper Alex O'Reilly produced a smashing save to pluck the ball from his own goal-line.
The cost of that miss did not become apparent until injury time when Ireland got that goal that keeps their hopes of qualifying for both the European Championship and the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney very much alive.
YUGOSLAVIA: Topalovic, Dudic (Maitajasevic 46), Vitiakic, Vukomanovic, Dzodic, Urumov, Vukic (Mitlovic 53), Ivic, Pantilic (Iliev 68), Ilic, Kezman.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: O'Reilly, Boxall (Barry-Murphy 43), Ryan, Worrell, Coughlan (Darcy 39), Dunne, Mahon (Inman 59), Morgan, Lee, Baker, Kilbane.
Referee: L Huyghe (Belgium).