Ireland held after early Dunne opener

DUBLIN - Ireland missed the opportunity to pull further clear in second place in Group Eight when Bulgaria came from behind to earn a deserved 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw on Saturday. Defender Richard Dunne gave the home side the lead after just 35 seconds when he arrived unmarked at the back post to head home fellow centre-back John O'Shea's flick on from a wicked Stephen Hunt free kick. Bulgaria, without injured Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov, dominated the remainder of the half with lone striker Dimitar Rangelov and winger Blagoy Georgiev wasting good chances while captain Stilian Petrov tested Irish goalkeeper Shay Given from distance. Ireland began better in the second period but when substitute Radostin Kishishev's cross found Petrov peeling away from goal, the Aston Villa midfielder's pull back was put into his own net by Ireland full back Kevin Kilbane on 74 minutes. Giovanni Trapattoni's side were booed off the pitch but remain seven points clear of third-placed Bulgaria, having played a game more. They travel to group leaders Italy on Wednesday when coach Stanimir Stoilov takes charge of his first home match when Bulgaria face fourth-placed Cyprus.