Duffy rescues point for Republic against Azerbaijan

Shane Duffy of Republic of Ireland scores their side's first goal during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between Republic of Ireland and Azerbaijan at Aviva Stadium on September 04, 2021 in Dublin, Ireland .

Shane Duffy spared the Republic of Ireland's blushes with a late header to earn a World Cup qualifying draw with Azerbaijan in Dublin.

After losing their last home qualifier to Luxembourg, the Irish risked embarrassment once again thanks to Emin Mahmudov's first-half strike.

But Duffy's 87th-minute header earned Stephen Kenny's side their first point of the campaign.

The Republic created more than enough chances to win the game comfortably.

However, a lack of composure in the final third resulted in a draw against a side ranked 112th in the world and now without a win in 27 games in World Cup and European Championship qualifying.

While they avoided a repeat of the disastrous home loss to Luxembourg in March, the result sees the Republic - playing in front of home fans for the first time since November 2019 - extend their record winless competitive run to 15 games. They also failed to build on the encouraging display in Wednesday's last-gasp 2-1 defeat by Portugal.

Having failed to pick up a point from their first three qualifiers, the draw leaves the Irish further adrift of the top two with Serbia beating Luxembourg to join Portugal on 10 points.

With the first half seemingly drifting towards a scoreless conclusion, Mahmudov stunned the Aviva Stadium into silence with a superb right-footed effort that was as much to do with the Republic's feeble defending as it was the midfielder's clinical finishing.

Having picked up Duffy's headed clearance, Mahmudov was afforded the time and space by Seamus Coleman and Josh Cullen to shift on to his right foot and send a curling shot into Gavin Bazunu's right-hand top corner.

The goal was reminiscent of Gerson Rodrigues' winner for Luxembourg in Dublin in March when the Dynamo Kyiv attacker latched on to a loose ball and went unchallenged before firing past Bazunu.

Thankfully for the Irish this time, though, Duffy rose to meet Cullen's cross to keep another dismal defeat off Kenny's copybook.

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