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Republic win courtesy of late goals
Last-gasp goals from Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle saved the Republic of Ireland's blushes as they came from behind to clinch a dramatic 2-1 victory over Kazakhstan.
Giovanni Trapattoni's men looked set for an embarrassing defeat when Kairat Nurdauletov glanced home after an insipid first-half performance from the visitors.
Kazakhstan, ranked 116 places below the Republic, controlled almost all the second half until Keane scored from the penalty spot after 87 minutes and Doyle blasted home in the dying seconds to hand the beleaguered Trapattoni a much-needed three points.
Trapattoni had promised that this game would be the start of a new promising era, but for the majority of this game his team were easily taken apart by Kazakhstan. There was no indication that the Republic were going to put on such a first-half horror show in the opening minutes as they started strongly.
The Kazakhs started to settle in to their rhythm, however, and threatened through Tanat Nusserbayev. The FC Astana forward drove at the Republic defence, but his threaded pass to Alexandr Kirov went to waste after the full-back mis-timed his run.
The opening goal that had been coming for a while arrived nine minutes before half-time when Genrikh Schmidtgal swung in a wicked corner and Nurdauletov glanced home from 10 yards. It was almost 2-0 moments later. Keiren Westwood parried Ulan Konysbayev's shot into the path of Nusserbayev but he could only hit a post.
Despite their sub-par performance in the opening 45 minutes, Trapattoni did not make any changes at half-time. Worryingly for the Italian, the Kazakhs remained on top. Schmidtgal probed the Republic defence with a foraging run and Nusserbayev powered a volley over the bar as the away side struggled to get in to the game.
Trapattoni finally made a change just before the hour when the ineffective Simon Cox was replaced by Doyle. The Wolves man scurried straight in to the box and went down under a challenge but his penalty appeal fell on deaf ears.
The away side plugged away and were handed a way back in to the tie three minutes from time when Keane was bundled over in the box by Mikhail Rozhkov and the referee pointed to the spot. The former Tottenham striker showed nerves of steel to calmly dispatch the spot-kick to the Kazakh 'keeper Andrey Sidelnikov's right.
The Republic completed their stunning comeback in the final minute when Doyle latched on to Stephen Ward's knock down and volleyed home from close range.