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Honours even in Paris

Saturday, 9 October 2004

By Matthew Spiro at Stade de France

[1] France failed to score at home for the second successive time in a FIFA World Cup qualifier tonight, as the Republic of Ireland produced a spirited and skilful display to earn a goalless draw in Paris.

O'Shea chance

[2] The visitors enjoyed the better of an intense encounter and would have taken all three points had John O'Shea not side-footed the game's best chance fractionally wide of the upright. The draw leaves both sides in contention in Group 4 with five points from three games.

Midfield battle

[3] With Irish supporters outnumbering and out-singing their French counterparts in a vibrant Stade de France it was the away team who started in inspired fashion. Roy Keane and Kevin Kilbane were quicker to the loose balls than Rio Antonio Mavuba and Olivier Dacourt in central midfield and Fabien Barthez, captaining France in the absence of the suspended Patrick Vieira, had to rush off his line to prevent Clinton Morrison latching on to Roy Keane's through pass on two minutes.

Powerful shot

[4] France were struggling to get a foothold in the game when Kilbane robbed Mavuba in the eleventh minute and saw his powerful shot deflect wide for a corner. Steve Finnan then tried his luck from outside the penalty area but the Liverpool FC player shot straight at Barthez. The one-way traffic continued and Kilbane went close to giving Ireland the lead on 27 minutes glancing a header wide from Finnan's cross.

French switch

[5] Robert Pires switched to the right wing and Sylvain Wiltord the left as France looked to change the pattern of the game. They created the first opening ten minutes before half-time when Wiltord teed up William Gallas on the right side of the penalty area but the Chelsea FC defender had his rising shot saved by Shay Given. The chance sparked the home side to life and two minutes later Pires shuffled across the edge of the penalty area before unleashing a swerving shot that was brilliant tipped round the post by Given.

Barthez on form

[6] Ireland were back in control after the break, however, with Barthez immediately forced to make a sprawling save from Andy Reid's low drive. Henry's long-range effort was smartly saved by Given but the better chances were coming at the other end and Barthez parried Damien Duff's stinging volley over the crossbar in spectacular fashion in the 62nd minute.

Henry scare

[7] Ireland were enjoying their best spell of pressure when, with 20 minutes remaining, Reid's floated free-kick found O'Shea unmarked at the far post but he failed to hit the target with a right-foot shot. Given had to push Henry's shot behind in the closing stages but it was a rare moment of concern for the impressive Irish who held on to secure a deserved point.

Ireland's Stephen Carr pursues Thierry Henry