By Micil Glennon in Wembley
The Republic of Ireland’s long awaited international friendly with England ended in an amicable 1-1 draw at Wembley.
Shane Long’s stunning header gave the Republic an early lead but Frank Lampard levelled up midway through the first half.
England pressed late on but David Forde made a series of impressive saves to deny the Three Lions and secure a morale-boosting draw at the home of football.
As expected, Giovanni Trapattoni started his with his trusted 4-4-2 formation, with Shane Long and Robbie Keane up front.
England manager Roy Hodgson handed the captain’s armband to Chelsea full-back Ashley Cole on the occasion of his 102nd cap, only seven months after sending insulting tweets about the FA.
Wayne Rooney was partnered by Daniel Sturridge up front, with Arsenal wingers Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the flanks.
Ahead of the game, concern centred around potential crowd trouble in the wake of the abandoned 1995 fixture, but so loud was the PA system that any booing or chanting was almost impossible to decipher, although a few whistles could be heard at the start of Amhrán na bhFiann.
It was Ireland who started brighter and Keane shot well wide with a speculative effort from outside the box.
Moments later Lampard picked out the run of Rooney but the Manchester United striker couldn’t get his volley on target.
It wasn’t long before the English fans upped the volume and Rule Britannia rang out around the stadium.
But on 13 minutes they were stunned into silence as Long got on the end of an inch-perfect curling cross from Seamus Coleman and arced an immaculate header past a helpless Joe Hart into the corner.
Cue pandemonium and green flares amongst the visiting supporters, who made up a sizeable portion of the 80,126 attendance.
England responded with purpose, however, and Oxlade-Chamberlain ballooned a shot over when he should have tested Forde.
Ireland’s deserved lead only lasted ten minutes, but a defensive error from Sean St Ledger played a large part.
Daniel Sturridge, making his first international start, threaded a ball from the left-hand side between Sean St Ledger and Glenn Whelan on the edge of the six-yard box.
St Ledger failed to connect with the ball as he attempted to clear and Lampard, with a trademark late run into the danger zone, was on hand to pass the ball past Forde,1-1.
Buoyed by the equaliser, Walcott began to purr and a combination of St Ledger and Forde was required to block his cross, while Oxlade-Chamberlain saw his shot saved.
Then it was the Boys in Green’s turn to threaten and Aiden McGeady dispossessed Lampard in midfield and shot from 25 yards, but it never threatened Hart’s goal.
Soon after Rooney overran a Walcott centre after the Gunner had skipped past St Ledger with ease.
Hodgson was forced into a change in the 34th with Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe replacing Sturridge who left the field on a stretcher after picking up an ankle injury under a Glenn Whelan challenge.
In the 39th minute there was some action in the crowd as the England fans next to the Irish section tried to out-sing their guests. But a swift chorus of the Fields of Athenry won out.
The travelling fans called for a penalty soon after when Keane fell dramatically in the box after a fine McGeady run had produced a corner kick.
But it was honours even at the end of an entertaining first half.
Coleman had to be alert to hook a dangerous cross from the path of Cole at the start of the second half, while Whelan wasted possession in a promising looking area when Ireland had numbers up.
Stephen Kelly was justifiably angry when he was penalised for a foul on Walcott, as replays showed his timing was perfect. Leighton Baines, on for Cole, couldn't get the resulting free past the green wall.
Ireland were almost caught out when England countered smartly in the 65th minute.
Baines made a crunching tackle on Everton team-mate Coleman as he looked to cross, and in the blink of an eye Oxlade-Chamberlain and Defoe combined to put Walcott into a shooting position, Forde saved low at his near post.
At this stage, Simon Cox had replaced an ineffective Keane, while James McClean and Jeff Hendrick had come on for McGeady and Whelan. Long was left up front to hold the line.
The home side pressed late on and almost snatched victory when Rooney’s pass fell perfectly for Oxlade-Chamberlain but Forde, solid throughout, stood up to deny the lively winger.
And the Millwall stopper was called into action again to deny Walcott moments later.
But by that stage many England fans had seen enough and huge swathes of Wembley were empty, their supporters leaving to the tune of You’ll Never Beat the Irish sung by the travelling fans who had done themselves and the country proud.
Trapattoni’s men now face Gerogia on Sunday before the crucial World Cup qualifier with the Faroe Islands on Friday week when goals will be on the menu.
England: Joe Hart (Ben Foster, h/t), Glen Johnson (Phil Jones, h/t), Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka, Ashely Cole (c) (Leighton Baines 54), Theo Walcott, Michael Carrick, Frank Lampard, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (James Milner 87), Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge (Jermain Defoe 34).
Subs not used: Alex McCarthy, Joleon Lescott, Jack Rodwell, Danny Welbeck.
Ireland: David Forde, Seamus Coleman, John O’Shea, Sean St Ledger, Stephen Kelly, Jon Walters (Conor Sammon 82), Glenn Whelan (Jeff Hendrick 74), James McCarthy, Aiden McGeady (James McClean 68), Robbie Keane (c) (Simon Cox 66), Shane Long.
Subs not used: Keiren Westwood, Darren Randolph, Damien Delaney, Richard Keogh, Darren O’Dea, Paul McShane, Stephen Quinn, David Meyler, Robbie Brady, Andy Keogh, Wes Hoolahan.
Referee: William Collum (Scotland).