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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 24, 2007

Ecuador 1-1 Ireland: Makeshift Irish held

Steve Staunton's makeshift side earned a spirited draw against Copa America-bound Ecuador in New York on Wednesday as the Republic of Ireland manager handed debuts to 11 players.

Kevin Doyle's diving header a minute before half-time cancelled out Ecuador's 13th minute opener from Christian Benitez in front of 20,823 fans at Giants Stadium as Staunton sent out a side captained by experienced Kevin Kilbane but with only 13 caps between the rest of the starting line-up.

Seven starters won their first caps while three more debutants came off the bench, including American-born student Joe Lapira, who had only met Staunton and the squad when they arrived in New York at the weekend.

Ireland started the brighter of the two sides with Stephen Hunt's free-kick forcing Ecuador goalkeeper Marcelo Elizaga to tip over the bar in the second minute and Reading team-mate Doyle hitting the post six minutes later.

While the makeshift Irish team looked sharp going forward, the lack of familiarity was exposed at the back after 13 minutes as Birmingham City right-back Stephen Kelly was caught out of position as Benitez ran onto a through ball.

As Alex Bruce appealed for offside his defensive partner Alan Bennett was playing Benitez onside and the Ecuador striker took advantage to drive across Birmingham goalkeeper Colin Doyle to open the scoring.

Ireland continued to look uncomfortable at the back as Ivan Kaviedes and Benitez caused problems, but the Republic stood firm and looked to cause problems down the flanks.

Ireland's equaliser came a minute before the break as Darren Potter found Daryl Murphy on the right and the Sunderland striker sent in a low cross across the face of goal for Doyle to head home after beating Jairo Campos to the ball.

The half ended in frenetic fashion as Kelly blocked a Benitez shot and Andy Keogh's follow-up from close range was cleared off the line.

The start to the second half proved to be just as frantic as Murphy found himself free down the left just seconds after the restart, but saw his cross cut out by Jairo Montano with Keogh lurking.

Five minutes later Kaviedes tried to chip Ireland custodian Doyle from just inside the penalty area, forcing the City goalkeeper to use all of his large frame to turn away the effort before saving low to his right from Benitez.

At the other end, Potter's 58th minute chip from the edge of the area beat Elizaga but landed on top of the net.

The substitutions started to come thick and fast as Staunton handed further debuts to Joe O'Cearuill and Stephen Gleeson and when Lapira was brought on in the 86th minute, not only did he become the 11th debutant of the night but the first non-professional international since 1964.