It was a case of better late than never for the Irish national team last night as they claimed a late point in Bari, Italy.
Robbie Keane was the hero on the night as Ireland kept their hopes alive of qualifying in top spot in Group 8 of World Cup qualifying. Marcelo Lippi's Italy took an early lead just minutes after they were reduced to ten men. Giampaolo Pazzini saw red with just two minutes on the clock after he "supposedly" elbowed Manchester United defender John O'Shea.
It was Vincenzo Iaquinta who gave the hosts the lead. Fabio Grosso got on the end of a smart ball played down the line by AC Milan midfielder Andrea Pirlo, and the Lyon man's subsequent cross was met by Iaquinta.
Giovani Trappatoni's men were clearly rattled by the early goal and the Italian manager was forced to make a change just moments after the opener. The unimpressive Andy Keogh was replaced by Hull City striker Caleb Folan.
That move seemed to give the visitors that much needed kick up the backside.
Ireland controlled proceedings there after, without ever really threatening until the final few moments. A long ball hoofed forward by Manchester City keeper Shay Given was met by the head of substitute Folan, who nodded it down to Keane who coolly slotted the ball beyond Gianluigi Buffon to send the travelling fans into hysterics.
All in all, it was a good result for Trap's men. Looking back at it now, the Irish players may feel as though they could of won the game, however a draw was probably a fair result. There is no doubt Ireland's job was made a lot easier when Italy were reduced to ten men but to go a goal behind and still manage to claim a point against the World Champions deserves a lot of credit. Next up for the Boys in green is a trip to Bulgaria.