The Season Ticket
Football | Duffy header rescues draw for Ireland against Azerbaijan
Shane Duffy's late header has rescued a 1-1 draw for the Republic of Ireland in their 2022 World Cup qualifying match against Azerbaijan at the Aviva Stadium.
Duffy was in the right place to head Josh Cullen's excellent cross home from six yards to earn a point for the Boys in Green after Azerbaijan had taken a shock lead through Emin Makhmudov's stunning strike from 25 yards on the stroke of half time.
The disappointing draw in Dublin heaps further pressure on manager Stephen Kenny and means Ireland have now collected just one point from their opening five Group A matches.
Ireland entered the match at the Aviva - which welcomed back a crowd for the first time in 22 months - looking to secure their first win of the qualifying campaign after the heartbreaking late defeat to Portugal in Faro.
Kenny decided to shuffle the pack for Azerbaijan's visit, with James McClean, Jayson Molumby and Troy Parrott coming into the Ireland side in place of Dara O'Shea, Jamie McGrath and Jeff Hendrick.
Ireland started brightly, with Matt Doherty heading John Egan's deep cross wide in the early exchanges.
Brilliant work from Adam Idah down the right touchline saw the teenage forward drive into the box and pull the ball back for Aaron Connolly to shoot, but the Brighton forward's low effort was blocked.
Seamus Coleman was the next to go close, making a good interception outside the Azerbaijan box before cutting inside and curling a left-footed effort wide.
However, in an all-too-familiar narrative, Ireland seemed to run out of steam and struggled to break down the well-disciplined visitors.
Azerbaijan created their first chance in the 22nd minute when Namik Alaskarov forced Gavin Bazunu to parry a powerful low strike wide at the near post.
Idah headed wide just after the half hour mark after an inviting cross from Connolly down the left.
Azerbaijan stunned the home crowd into silence in first half stoppage time.
Mahmudov picked up a clearance 25 yards from goal, and was allowed far too much time and space to twist and turn his way towards the Irish goal.
The midfielder unleashed an unstoppable right-footed drive from 25 yards which flew straight into the top corner to give the visitors the lead at the interval.
Molumby headed narrowly over early in the second half from substitute Daryl Horgan's cross as Kenny's men pushed desperately for a quick equaliser.
Parrott, who was one of many Irish players to endure a forgettable evening, then tested goalkeeper Shakran Magomedaliyev with a powerful shot from 20 yards, which the Azerbaijan goalkeeper parried to safety.
Idah had another chance to draw Ireland level in the 61st minute, but his glancing header from Horgan's cross bounced wide of the post.
Kenny sent on Conor Hourihane, Alan Browne and James Collins as Ireland grew increasingly desperate, but it was Duffy who popped up with the goal in the 87th minute.
McClean kept the ball alive down the left, laying. it off to Cullen, who whipped in an inviting cross.
Duffy powered a header past Magomedaliyev, who got a hand to it, to make it 1-1.
Ireland pushed for a late winner, but were forced to settle for their first point in Group A.
Next up is Serbia, but before that, Kenny can expect plenty of pressure, post-mortems and scrutiny for another embarrassing Irish result.