Republic of Ireland fought well to earn a 1-1 draw in their first meeting with England for 18 years in front of packed crowd at Wembley.
Shane Long opened the scoring for the visitors, as he rose highest to head beyond Joe Hart, before Frank Lampard leveled the game mid-way through the first half. While the hosts crafted the better chances throughout the night, the game ended 1-1 for the seventh time in 14 meetings.
It was the first time both sides had met since their ill-fated game at Lansdowne Road in 1995, which was abandoned because of crowd trouble, and Ireland’s first visit to Wembley in 22 years. The latter ended a series of three matches in nine months for the neighbouring nations, which included the pair’s 1-1 draw in their opening clash of the 1990 FIFA World Cup Italy™.
The 80,000 fans in attendance were in fine voice, and Wembley was bouncing for the third time in five days, following the UEFA Champions League final and English Championship play-off final. Both teams fielded attacking line-ups and both began brightly, keen to get an early foothold in the game.
England went close to an audacious opener in the fourth minute when Frank Lampard’s raking pass from half-way found Wayne Rooney on the edge of the Irish penalty area. However, Rooney's first-time lob was not enough to worry goalkeeper David Forde, as it drift harmlessly wide.
England manager Roy Hodgson and his Ireland counterpart Giovanni Trapattoni both looked intent on using the pace of Theo Walcott and Shane Long respectively to stretch the opposing backlines, and it was the latter who opened the scoring on 13 minutes. The ball broke wide on the right wing to fullback Seamus Coleman, whose deep cross found the head of Long. Rising above Glen Johnson and Gary Cahill, his flicked header floated beyond Joe Hart to nestle in the England goal.
It was a lead that only lasted ten minutes though, as the hosts swiftly struck back. Daniel Sturridge took advantage of hesitant defending on the left corner of the penalty area to pick out Frank Lampard, who, after finishing the season with Chelsea in impressive scoring form, coolly slotted home from four yards. Sturridge’s assist was his last meaningful contribution to the game, soon being stretchered off to be replaced by Jermain Defoe.
Walcott continued to cause trouble for left-back Stephen Kelly, twice getting beyond the Irish defence and causing uncertainty for Trapattoni’s men. However, Aiden McGeady had England similarly worried just before the break, forcing Gary Cahill into a superb last-ditch challenge after the Spartak Moscow winger ghosted beyond Glen Johnson.
Walcott was again instrumental as England almost took the lead straight after the restart, but captain-for-the-night Ashley Cole could not get on the end of his dangerous cross. With chances hard to come by, the Arsenal attacker tested Forde twice from the edge of the area, but the Republic of Ireland keeper dealt with them comfortably.
The visitors were increasingly finding themselves camped in their own half but, though Phil Jones - brought on at half-time in place of Johnson - and Manchester United team-mate Wayne Rooney produced a number of neat interchanges, clear-cut opportunities were at a premium.
Ireland were largely limited to crafting chances from set-pieces, the closest coming from substitute James McClean’s well-struck, 30-yard effort. They went closer still when fellow substitute Ben Foster in the England goal fumbled McClean’s high cross. Jonathan Walters put the ball into the net during the ensuing melee but referee William Collum waved away celelbrations for a foul on the West Bromwich Albion keeper.
England should have taken the lead with less than ten minutes to go, when Rooney’s through-ball deflected into the path of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but with just Forde to beat he shot straight at the Millwall stopper. Forde was again the hero minutes later, denying Walcott at his near post to see out the game.