14.10.1998 at 19:30 Lansdowne Road
Republic of Ireland
5 - 0
Referee: Roy Helge Olsen (Nor)
European Cup Qualifier / PROG-match
Jason Mc Ateer
Reginald Cini (Valetta), Jeffrey Chetcuti (Valetta), John Buttigieg (Floriana), Darren Debono (Valetta),
David Carabott (Hibernians), Michael Spiteri (Hibernians), Paul Sixsmith (Naxxar),
Joe Brincat (Birkirkara), Antoine Zahra (Birkirkara), Noel Turner (Sliema Wanderers),
Hubert Suda (Birkirkara);
Wednesday, October 14th, 1998
Stato: Robbie Keane first goals for Ireland
European Championship qualifier
Republic of Ireland 5 (Robbie Keane 2, Roy Keane, Quinn, Breen)
Salute the arrival of a glittering new star on the Irish football firmament — the hugely talented 18-year-old Robbie Keane.
It is true that Keane's remarkable talent was acknowledged before now, for he created a substantial impact in each of his previous four senior internationals, but it was on this night that he chose to deliver on his unique gift.
Keane opened his senior international account with two goals in a golden two minutes spell in Ireland's comfortable European Championship win over Malta before a capacity 34,500 spectators at Lansdowne Road.
His first goal was a typical goal-poacher's finish, a lightning reaction in a crowded goalmouth helping him turn the ball beyond the goalkeeper, and his second was a thing of beauty.
He won possession in unlikely circumstances, hustling Debono into error, nipping the ball from him and then stepping inside Buttigieg's tackle before swerving a shot around the goalkeeper from 18 yards.
The precocious Keane showed the confidence to delay his finishing shot to check his angles.
It was this moment's hesitation that marked him as a special player for it showed he had the strength of character to control his emotions and the manner in which he put spin on the ball to draw it from outside to inside the far upright was the hall-mark of a class striker.
Keane was 18 on July 8 and he entered the record books as the youngest player to score for Ireland in a senior competitive international.
His capacity for hard-work, his pace and his elusive style of play suggests that Ireland have discovered a goal-poacher unlike any centre-forward to have played in the green shirt in recent times.
Manager Mick McCarthy put it well when he described Keane's second goal afterwards.
"It epitomised the type of player he is; cheeky, impudent, arrogant ... it was a wonderful finish."
Such a rare and welcome addition to Ireland's senior squad might well be the catalyst to accelerate the development of this emerging team for Malta found him very difficult to contain.
Quite obviously he has a long way to go before he can stand alongside the major talents of the international game, but his success in opening his international account confirmed the spectacular impression he has created.
Keane's sharp instinct for goal was very welcome for Ireland on a night when Croatia signalled a further advance towards the form that took them into third place in the World Cup by winning a vital match in Macedonia.
It was a night ear-marked for the celebration of excellence at Lansdowne Road as the marvellous Sonia O'Sullivan was honoured by the FAI before the match and the European U18 championship winners in Cyprus, led by their captain Barry Quinn of Coventry City and manager Brian Kerr, were honoured at half-time.
So Keane's emergence as a finisher of international class was well-timed for Ireland experienced difficulties in the opening half in coming to terms with the nature of Malta's resistance.
Keane took any real tension out of the proceedings by hitting the target in the 16th and 18th minutes, but Ireland had to wait until Malta tired in the second half before they subdued them completely.
To their credit Ireland applied themselves with zeal to the task and their final tally of goals accurately reflected the measure of superiority they achieved over opponents.
But Malta were prepared to play with a line of five defenders in front of goalkeeper Cini and they also had four midfielders so Ireland found every path to goal was very congested.
Usually it is possible to out-flank a massed defence and un-hinge them by getting round the outside, but Malta were very aware of the threat posed out wide by Ireland's Jason McAteer and Damien Duff.
The wingers were invariably 'double-teamed' with Malta concentrating on funnelling Ireland's attacks into the heavy traffic in the middle of the field and they played with excellent discipline.
In the circumstances the most fruitful path to goal was represented once again by Niall Quinn's strength in the air.
He was buffeted and battered by Malta's central defenders but his committed work created the space for Keane to work his magic and he would have deserved a brace himself in the first half when he struck the crossbar and forced a superb save from Cini.
Quinn was rewarded with an excellent goal — Ireland's fourth — in the 62nd minute when he reached Duff's inswinging cross from the left wing and turned it in with his right foot at full-stretch.
Ireland's third was also a high quality strike, fittingly driven home by the dominant Roy Keane in midfield.
Keane and Mark Kinsella controlled the game in the middle of the field and again they showed, as they had done against Croatia, how perfectly they complement one another.
Their ball-winning capabilities were considerable and Malta scarcely succeeded in developing one worthwhile attack throughout the 90 minutes.
Indeed goalkeeper Shay Given was never called upon to make a difficult save all evening.
Gary Breen took the opportunity to join the goal feast after 81 minutes.
He finished cleverly when a deflection of Kinsella's shot fell into his path for he controlled the ball, dummied his way past the goalkeeper and rolled the ball into the empty net.
Keane over moon with golden goals
Robbie Keane devastated group minnows Malta with two magical goals inside two minutes at a 34,500 sell-out Lansdowne Road last night.
The Wolves teenage sensation with the football world at his feet blitzed the opposition with two lightning strikes to become the youngest player ever to score for the senior international team.
"I think the lads down in Tallaght must have heard the cheers for that second goal and I hope they stayed up and were listening again when the man of the match award winner was announced," said the 18-year-old who took over the mantle of youngest Irish goal-scorer from one John Giles.
Keane's first senior goals for his country launched the Republic to a handsome five-goal victory on a night when team skipper Roy Keane, Niall Quinn and Gary Breen also got in on the goal-scoring act.
"It was nice for me to get off the mark after all the talk in the papers during the week about me and big Niall Quinn hitting Malta for six. I suppose five is not bad in the end.
"It was nice to get off the mark but to get the second one was a nice little bonus for me. The first one broke the ice for the team. It certainly was not the best goal I have scored but the main thing for me was that it hit the back of the net.
"I think it was a vital one okay because it settled the team down and we knew once we scored early on that we would get a few more. Even at 2-0 at half-time, I think everyone felt that there would be more to come in the second half," added Keane.
"I really enjoyed the second goal and that was the pick of the bunch for me. I was going to play Quinny in first of all but the defender dived in and I just slipped it through his legs. I saw the gap then on the far side of the goal and I went for it. I just curled it in over the goalkeeper's dive."
Keane admitted afterwards that he was not trying too hard for his hat-trick because he took a knock on the knee in the second half.
"I slowed up a bit after that knock and it was irritating me a bit and I was not as busy at all in the second half. I had to come off because I did not want to risk anything and it would not have been fair to my club either," added the other Keano as he clutched his second Opel man-of-the-match award under his arms.
"I'd hope to win a few more of them and I think I might if I keep playing up front with Niall Quinn. He wanted me to shoot at every opportunity and again he talked me right through the game.
"Once you see the goals open up for you as a striker, ask any striker, and they will tell you to go for it. Niall has been magnificent for me and to have him in the same team as me is a dream come true," he added.
Keane said: "I played with him in the Argentina game and I enjoyed that one tremendously. But in tonight's game and in the build up beforehand we just had a laugh together and it was the same out on the pitch. That's an old pro for you and I hope we get to play a lot more together," he added.
"If I keep scoring goals like that second one tonight — that was special for me— then I will keep doing my little cart-wheels for you," promised Keane.
Keane's striking partner 32-year-old Niall Quinn who was back in the team having missed 14 of the last 16 internationals said that it was a pleasure to play up front with his young protege.
"Whoever holds our top goal-scoring record — I think it's still Frank Stapleton — he is only keeping it warm for Robbie.
"I am back for another chance with the national team now and to have a guy like Robbie Keane up there with me can only extend my international career. I really enjoyed that tonight and I was well pleased with my goal because it was something that Mick McCarthy wanted me to do. He wanted me to get across people tonight to open things up behind for Robbie to get into space but I got across my own marker nicely for my own goal, the fourth of the night."
Quinn added: "I think I owe myself a goal or two now, having come back from two very bad knee injuries. I have no regrets — don't get me wrong — because I went out to enjoy myself last night.
"Nobby Stiles told me at the FAI/Opel Awards dinner the other night that when it's over, when it's all over, that I would soon want it all back and he's done nothing but miss football since the day he retired."
"I have just taken his advice and I intend to make the most of it from here on in," added the Sunderland ace.
"Other nights I might be falling on my backside and you lads will all be laughing at me but what the hell!" he added.
Gary Breen who scored one of the goals
by rounding the goalkeeper said that he was delighted to be back and to cap his return with a goal was a huge bonus for him.
"I am just delighted to be back in the team to be honest. At times in the match
I found myself standing up just outside their penalty box and that's how the goal came.
"Mark Kinsella had a shot blocked down and the ball fell into my lap almost. I just carried it on, dummied the goalkeeper inside the six-yard box and slotted it home.
"The lads were slagging me in the dressingroom though, saying that I should have come back a second time and taken it around him again.
"I just bloody hope I didn't let myself down with that funny celebration that's all," added Breen.
"The way we played Malta tonight would be unheard of in the Premiership and there's no way that you would get away with it.
"We were camped in their half for long periods and it was difficult to stop yourself from going forward.
"Mick just told me to go up for set pieces and corner kicks and stuff like that but we always had Jeff Kenna or Steve Staunton covering at the back. I was trying to encourage them to go forward as well because Kenny Cunningham and myself had faith in our own ability to cope at the back.
"It was a bit of a doddle, I suppose, but for me to score for Ireland again was a brilliant feeling," added the Coventry City defender.
"It's great to be back in the team. It means the world to me to play for Ireland but to score a goal like that capped a great night for me.
"I don't think I have ever scored a goal like that where I actually got to take the ball round the keeper and stroke it into an empty net," he added.
Ireland boss praises the arrogance and cheek of his young gun
Robbie Keane bagged a double in a 5-0 mauling of Malta to become the Republic of Ireland's youngest-ever goalscorer, but earned just as much praise from manager Mick McCarthy for ''commonsense''.
The 18-year-old Wolves striker asked to be taken off seven minutes from time, when he felt discomfort from a knee strain, instead of selfishly staying on in pursuit of a hat-trick.
McCarthy said: ''He came over to me and said that the knee was sore, and that it would be best if he came off. It showed a lot of commonsense and responsibility when he could have been selfish and tried to get his hat-trick.
''Everybody knows what I think of Robbie. I'll let other people praise him now.
''But his second goal tonight epitomised him. He showed cheeky, impudent arrogance on the ball, and then wonderful ability to finish.''
Keane said: ''To get one goal, let alone two was a bonus — and becoming the youngest player to score for Ireland was an even bigger bonus.
''Obviously, I'm absolutely delighted. To be honest the first one was not the best I've ever scored, but it hit the net and that's the main thing.
''And I really enjoyed the second one. Steve Staunton played the ball over the top, and I was fortunate enough to put it through a defender's legs.
"Then I saw a gap on the far side of the keeper and just went for it.
''Niall Quinn was always helping me up there. I'm very lucky to be playing alongside him.''
Quinn also retired before the end, with a calf strain, but not before he had cracked home his 17th international goal — and the first for more than two years.
McCarthy said: ''They worked well together and we've now won our two home matches in the qualifying group, and are on target. We were expected to win tonight and we've done the job.''
McCarthy is now hoping the Republic will be able to visit Yugoslavia next month, for their third match in the group. The game in Belgrade was postponed last week because of the fearful political situation concerning nearby Kosovo.
''Now we will wait and see what happens with the Yugoslavia game. Hopefully we can go over there next month, and I'm not saying that just because we will be all the more confident after these wins.
''A football manager's problems are minuscule to what people are suffering over there. If it turns out that we go there next month then that means things are being resolved.''
Ireland: Shay Given (Newcastle), Jeff Kenna (Blackburn), Steve Staunton (Liverpool), Kenny Cunningham (Wimbledon), Gary Breen (Coventry), Roy Keane (Manchester United) capt, Jason McAteer (Liverpool), Mark Kinsella (Charlton), Niall Quinn (Sunderland), Robbie Keane (Wolverhampton), Damien Duff (Blackburn Rovers)
Subs: Tony Cascarino (AS Nancy) for Quinn 73, Mark Kennedy (Wimbledon) for Robbie Keane 82, Lee Carsley (Derby County) for McAteer 85
Manager: Mick McCarthy
Malta: Reginald Cini (Valetta), Jeffrey Chetcuti (Valetta), John Buttigieg (Floriana), Darren Debono (Valetta), David Carabott (Hibernians), Michael Spiteri (Hibernians), Paul Sixsmith (Naxxar), Joe Brincat (Birkirkara), Antoine Zahra (Birkirkara), Noel Turner (Sliema Wanderers), Hubert Suda (Birkirkara)
Subs: Gilbert Aguis (Valetta) for Suda 65, Ivan Zamit (Birkirkara) for Zahra 70
Booked: Debono 80