02.04.2003 at 00:00 Qemal Stafa Stadium, Tirana
0 - 0
Republic of Ireland
Referee: Stefano Farina (Italy)
European Cup Qualifier-match
Albania 0 Rep of Ireland 0
Brian Kerr claimed Ireland were back in contention after they ended their week of travels with their first points in Group 10 of their Euro 2004 qualifying campaign.
Ireland followed Saturday’s victory in Georgia with a goalless draw in Albania to keep alive their hopes of making it to Portugal next summer.
“We are back in contention because we have just achieved our first points from two difficult games,” said Kerr.
“We set out on this trip with no points on the board and I said that four would be a reasonable target, and that we would need results from the other games to go in our favour and I think that has happened.
“It is a relief to get those points because there was a lot of pressure on everyone after starting with two defeats from two games.
“This has been a difficult period for the country, we lost two matches, lost a manager, had players who retired, lost players for this trip through injury, and then Robbie Keane had some difficulties of a personal nature, but at least we are back on the road now.”
Kerr praised Newcastle goalkeeper Shay Given who produced a series of fine saves to ensure a clean sheet. Kerr said: “he made a crucial save early in the game and then the rest of his play was top class, but that’s what you expect from him.
“I think the players were a bit tired from the effort they made in Georgia on Saturday because it was tough to play two games like these in quick succession.
“We were not at our best today but I think it was a satisfactory result and a fair result because neither team created too many chances, and the defences were on top at both ends.”
Ireland’s next three qualifying matches are all at home and Kerr is looking forward to keeping the run of points going.
“Now we can look forward to three home games in a row and I hope our supporters can show as much passion in Dublin as the Albanians did here,” said Kerr.
“But those games won’t be easy because these teams know how to play well at home, especially the likes of Albania, because they are a good counter-attacking side.”
Kerr also defended Tottenham striker Keane who joined the team on Monday following a difficult week after the death of his father.
Kerr added: “Robbie was not in 100% condition for a match of that tempo because he has missed training and games at Spurs and it was understandable he was not at his best, and the ball did not stay up the pitch long enough for us.”