John O'Shea struck with almost the last kick of the match to secure a memorable draw for the Republic of Ireland in Gelsenkirchen and deny Germany the three points they craved to get their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign back on track. The veteran Sunderland and former Manchester United defender ensured his 100th cap was one that neither he nor his country will ever forget with a close-range finish four minutes into injury time to keep Ireland joint top of Group D, three points above the world champions.
Just over 20 minutes earlier, Ireland looked set to leave Schalke's Veltins-Arena empty handed when their stern resistance was ended by Toni Kroos's fierce drive in off the post. That had come after a Germany team, heavily weakened by injuries and fresh off the back of a shock 2-0 loss to Poland at the weekend, struggled to break the visitors down following Erik Durm's early strike from distance that cannoned back off the crossbar. But after the disappointment of going behind, Ireland, buoyed by a 7-0 win over Gibraltar at the weekend, fought back to claim what could prove to be a vital point in their efforts to make it to France.
Germany should still comfortably make it into the top two and secure their automatic qualification, but they have already made their campaign more difficult than most would have envisaged. Injuries, the extent of which were emphasized by having just four outfield players on the bench, have clearly playd their part. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mesut Özil, Marco Reus, André Schürrle, Christoph Kramer and Benedikt Höwedes were all ruled out. And with Sami Khedira and Ilkay Gundogan also unavailable, it meant Kroos lining up alongisde 20-year-old Matthias Ginter in an unfamiliar midfield. Germany's full-backs had less tha 10 caps between them, although both came close to breaking the deadlock in an impressive opening 15 minutes for the hosts.
Borussia Dortmund left-back Durm almost had a spectacular first goal for his country when chesting the ball down way out on the left and launching a stunning effort that beat David Forde in the Irish goal but came back off the crossbar. While Durm was unlucky, right-back Antonio Rüdiger should have done better than to head wide from Thomas Muller's header back across goal. Kroos also missed the target with a presentable opening but Ireland's cautious approach paid dividends against a Germany team that faded in the opening 45 minutes, albeit the visitors' attacking threat was limited to Stephen Ward narrowly failing to get on the end of a free-kick.
Lukas Podolski's introduction at the break showed coach Joachim Löw's dissatisfaction with what he had witnessed. His change helped give Germany fresh impetus at the start of the second half. And while the Republic survived efforts from Podolski and Kroos and an ambitious penalty appeal when Podolski went down, they succumbed with 19 minutes remaining. Kroos was allowed too much space to drift forward before he let rip with a typically well-struck shot from 25 yards.
That looked like being that, especially when substitute Wes Hoolahan saw a goal-bound effort from six yards brilliantly blocked by Durm with just five minutes remaining. But Ireland fought on and O'Neil pushed O'Shea forward as they went in search of an equalizer. Sensationally the move provided rich rewards when Hoolahan's deep cross was helped back across the box by substitute Jeff Hendrick and O'Shea showed the instincts of an experienced poacher to react quickest and turn the ball into the German net to the elation of the sizable Irish traveling contingent.
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