Brady helps Republic pick up a vital point

Republic of Ireland's (L - R) Seamus Coleman, Robbie Brady and James McClean after the 2018 FIFA Wor

Republic of Ireland's (L - R) Seamus Coleman, Robbie Brady and James McClean after the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying, Group D match at the Rajko Mitic Stadium, Belgrade. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday September 5, 2016. See PA story SOCCER Serbia. Photo credit should read: Nick Potts/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only, no commercial use without prior permission, please contact PA Images for further info: Tel: +44 (0) 115 8447447. - Credit: PA

Daryl Murphy chose the perfect moment to end his wait for a first Republic of Ireland goal when he came off the bench to snatch a 2-2 World Cup qualifier draw in Serbia.

The former Ipswich Town striker's 80th-minute contribution to an eventful contest at the Rajko Mitic Stadium handed Ireland a positive start to their Group D campaign on a night when they never hit the heights they scaled at their best in France this summer. But as they always do, they kept going until the death and once again, emerged with something to show for their efforts.

Jeff Hendrick had got them off to a dream start with a third-minute opener. Norwich City's Robbie Brady, wearing the number 10 shirt vacated by retired talisman Robbie Keane, curled a free-kick into the penalty area which 20-year-old keeper Predrag Rajkovic, making his competitive debut, could only palm towards John O'Shea.

The defender drilled the ball back across goal where Shane Long's touch set it up nicely for Hendrick, challenged by assistant manager Roy Keane just days ago to add goals to his game, fired in a shot which wrong-footed Rajkovic and flew into the net.

When the hugely impressive Filip Kostic and Dusan Tadic struck within five minutes of each other in the second half, the latter from the spot, the writing looked to be on the wall for Martin O'Neill's men.

But Murphy grasped a positive conclusion to a potentially damaging evening, heading home Brady's corner to send his side into their home clash with Georgia and Moldova away next month with something to build upon, if with questions to be answered.

O'Neill saluted his side for fighting back, saying: 'You would have taken a point before the game started. We fought back magnificently from conceding the second goal and absolutely deserved a point.

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'It was good to get something out of the game and get off the mark.'

The match only went ahead after a late pitch inspection following torrential rain and O'Neill added: 'The pitch cut up very, very quickly and the conditions were difficult.'

On Serbia's penalty, awarded for a foul on Kostic by Jonathan Walters, the manager said: 'It looked soft.'

O'Neill once again stressed his commitment to the Republic, even though his new contract has not yet been signed, almost three months after an agreement being announced.

O'Neill, linked in reports to the Hull job, said: 'They'll be no hiccups about that (the new contract). I've shaken hands on the deal quite some time ago.'

Southampton's Tadic claimed his side were punished for not going for a third goal.

He said: 'When we scored the second goal I think we dropped back too much. I think we should have pushed a bit more and then we should win the match.'

City's Wes Hoolahan was an unused substitute for the visitors.

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