Keane takes confidence from Poland draw

SoccerBy Kevin Palmer
Keane struggled to make his mark against Poland
Keane struggled to make his mark against Poland

Republic of Ireland captain Robbie Keane believes Shane Long's last gasp equaliser against Poland in Sunday's Euro 2016 qualifier could be the turning point in the destiny of Group D.

Long's goal will lead to fresh calls for the Southampton striker to start ahead of Keane in the next qualifier against Scotland in June, yet Keane side stepped questions about his own future as he focused on the team's improved display.

"When you go a goal behind and you score in the last few minutes of the game, it's certainly a point gained," said the LA Galaxy striker.

"If we'd have scored earlier, maybe so, if we'd continue to play the way we did in the second half. But when you score a goal in the last few minutes, it's certainly a point gained.

"It will give us confidence as well going into the next game, knowing that we can keep going and fighting until the very end and get something out of the game."

Ireland's hopes of qualification looked to be hanging by a thread as the game entered its final throes with the visitors tenaciously defending the 26th-minute lead Slawomir Peszko had given them, even if goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski had been grateful for the assistance of the woodwork on two occasions.

But, in the first of five minutes of stoppage time, the diminutive Wes Hoolahan rose to head Robbie Brady's corner back across goal, and Long was in the right place at the right time to beat the keeper.

"Of course, it certainly gives us confidence," stated Keane.

"You look at the effort from the players fitness-wise, everyone closing down the defenders and closing down the midfielders and how hard we made it in the second half for Poland.

"We have to give ourselves a lot of credit. When you go a goal behind against anybody, it's always difficult, and when you are chasing the game and chasing the game, you feel like it's not going to come.

"To get that goal at the end was certainly a relief because it was certainly well deserved. It would have been a travesty if we didn't get something out of the game.

"We maybe showed them a little bit too much respect in the first half, but then you see the difference in the second half. Full credit to the players - we showed a lot of character, a lot of heart.

"You saw the desperation for us to get back into that game and, thankfully, we did. We were unlucky a couple of times just before that. If we'd have got the early goal, I think we would have put a lot of pressure on them and I think we probably would have gone on and nicked it."

The draw leaves Ireland still three points adrift of Poland and two behind both Germany and Scotland, the latter of whom who head for the Aviva Stadium in June, and keeper Shay Given, who was recalled to the starting line-up in place of David Forde to win in 128th cap, is predicting a tight finish to the pool.

He said: "It will probably come down to the wire. It will probably come down to the last couple of games.

"Had we lost, it would have been a big blow to us, of course, but we have still got a lot of games to go, and who knows what that point is going to do at the end of the campaign? It was a massive point, I think.

"It was such a late goal, you probably take it as a point gained. We'll have belief as well going to Poland, especially from the second-half performance.

"They are a good team, but you can get at them. If we can play on the front foot out in Poland as well, then we can cause them some problems. The second-half performance was pretty pleasing and, if we could take that into the Scotland game as well, then I think it will be a big point."