04.09.2015 at 19:45 Estadio Algarve
0 - 4
Republic of Ireland
Referee: Marijo Strahonja
European Cup Qualifier / Prog-match
James Coombes,\Robert Guilling,
James Mc Clean
Aidan Mc Geady
Kyle Casciaro 9 mins,
Erin Barnett 48 mins,
Jon Walters (42)
Gibraltar 0-4 Republic of Ireland
A double from captain Robbie Keane and goals from Cyrus Christie and Shane Long helped Ireland to a workmanlike 4-0 win over Gibraltar in Faro to lift Martin O’Neill’s side to third place in Group D in their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.
Christie’s wonderful solo strike gave the Boys in Green a 1-0 half-time advantage that accurately reflected a lack of penetration despite overwhelming dominance of possession.
A two-goal blitz from Keane, a tap-in and penalty, shortly after half-time put the result firmly beyond doubt, but Ireland rarely found the rhythm they exuded when hammering the Iberian minnows 7-0 at the Aviva Stadium last October, until substitute Long’s late header made it four.
Scotland’s shock 1-0 defeat in Georgia earlier in the night would have helped to concentrate Ireland’s mind on the task at hand, with third place in the group up for grabs.
They started brightly, in front of 5,393 at Gibraltar’s ‘home’ venue, with Wes Hoolahan playing his customary conductor’s role and combining well with Jeff Hendrick and Robbie Brady down the left.
Brady had a free-kick tipped over by Gibraltar goalkeeper Jordan Perez after seven minutes before Ciaran Clark rattled the crossbar with an unmarked header from a corner in the tenth minute.
Ireland did have the ball in the net two minutes later as Walters swept Keane’s clever, dinked cross home with a diving header but the Stoke man, who was uncharacteristically ineffective throughout the opening period, had strayed offside.
Captain Keane hit the side-netting after a lovely through ball from Hoolahan but Ireland were starting to look one-dimensional, with midfield very congested and no support for Christie down the right flank.
In the 27th minute, Derby defender Christie produced a bit of magic, however, cutting in from the touchline to beat two defenders and curl the ball into the far corner of the net with the outside of his right foot.
Walters immediately went close from long-range but the floodgates failed to open and Gibraltar even went close to an equaliser ten minutes before the break, former Portsmouth midfielder Paul Walker forcing Shay Given into a diving save.
Despite forcing a succession of corners, eight in the first half altogether, Ireland were forced to settle for a one-nil lead at the break but the game changed dramatically after the restart as Keane scored twice in two minutes.
In the 49th minute, Gibraltar had a three-on-two advantage breaking forward but poor control from Kyle Casciaro wasted the chance and the men in green punished their opponents’ wastefulness ruthlessly.
Walters drove into the box and his cross was diverted past keeper Perez and onto the post by a Gibraltarian leg, the ball popping up for an unmarked Keane to tap home from two yards out.
Two minutes later Hoolahan skipped across the Gibraltar box and was clipped by Walker. Keane confidently stroked home the penalty, sending Perez the wrong way for his 67th international goal in 141 appearances.
The LA Galaxy star has now scored in an Irish shirt for an incredible 18 consecutive years.
Ireland failed to press home their advantage after that psychological hammer-blow to Gibraltar’s confidence, however, and though James McCarthy drew a fine save from Perez with a half-volley, it took a last-ditch block from Brady to prevent Anthony Bardon from getting the underdogs on the scoresheet.
O’Neill introduced Stephen Quinn, Shane Long and Aiden McGeady for Keane, McCarthy and Hoolahan in a bid to refresh Ireland’s flagging momentum, and Southampton striker Long quickly made his mark on the game.
In the 79th minute, the excellent Christie combined well with clubmate Hendrick, who put a perfect chipped cross onto the penalty spot for Long to head past Perez.
McGeady shot wide wastefully when Long was free outside him and Walters scuffed a golden chance wide but Ireland finished out the game out comfortably for a 4-0 win.
Not exactly vintage football from O’Neill’s men but a satisfying result on a night when qualification for France 2016 suddenly seems much less far-fetched.
Gibraltar: Jordan Perez, Jean Carlos Garcia, Erin Barnett, Roy Chipolina (c), Joseph Chipolina, John Sergeant (85), Liam Walker, Anthony Bardon, Kyle Casciaro (Jake Gosling 61), Lee Casciaro, John Paul Duarte (Michael Yome 74).
Republic of Ireland: Shay Given, Cyrus Christie, John O’Shea, Ciaran Clark, Robbie Brady, Glenn Whelan, James McCarthy (Stephen Quinn 70), Jeff Hendrick, Jon Walters, Wes Hoolahan (Aiden McGeady 77), Robbie Keane (c) (Shane Long 70).