Football: Aldridge powers to hat-trick

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The Independent Online
Republic of Ireland. . .4

Latvia . . . . . . . . .0

A SECOND-HALF hat-trick by John Aldridge secured a laboured but eventually emphatic World Cup win for the Republic over Latvia at Lansdowne Road yesterday. Jack Charlton's men, who were often guilty of playing with too much haste and too little thought, have replaced Lithuania, the unlikely early leaders, at the top of Group Three.

Ireland were clearly convinced that a long-ball bombardment was the way to rout the Latvians, who had held Denmark, the European champions, to a draw in their previous qualifier. Predictably, Niall Quinn was the focal point of a ferocious early assault, but it took the men in green over half an hour to achieve the breakthrough.

Quinn was mostly well marked by the lanky Rolands Bulders, while the Latvian goalkeeper, Konstantin Igoshin, was never scared to leave his line to deal with the series of high balls aimed at him. However, the home pressure paid off after 32 minutes, when Quinn's challenge prevented the Baltic back line from clearing a Roy Keane cross, and Kevin Sheedy swept the ball home from 15 yards with his left foot.

Quinn twice missed the target as the Irish kept up the pace. The Latvians, participating in the World Cup for the first time in 55 years, had little to offer apart from brave resistance, and the occasional ineffectual break.

Ireland added to their tally 14 minutes after the break when Aldridge scored with a powerful header from a Sheedy free-kick.

As the Latvians tired, further goals seemed inevitable. They duly arrived in the last 10 minutes, as Aldridge scored from the penalty spot after Bulders had tripped Coyne. The Tranmere striker completed his second international hat-trick with another header, this time dispatching a Dennis Irwin cross into the top corner of the Latvian net. The crowd were happy with four goals and maximum points from two home ties, but they know that sterner tests, in the shape of Spain and Denmark, await on the long road to USA '94.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Bonner (Celtic); Irwin (Manchester United), Staunton (Aston Villa), Kernaghan (Middlesbrough), McGrath (Aston Villa), Townsend (Chelsea), Keane (Nottingham Forest), Whelan (Liverpool), Quinn (Manchester City), Aldridge (Tranmere Rovers), Sheedy (Newcastle United). Substitutes: Coyne (Celtic) for Quinn, 61; Phelan (Manchester City) for Sheedy, 76.

LATVIA: Igoshin (RAF Jelgava); Astafiev (Skonto Riga), Alexeenko (RAF Jelgava), Bulders (RAF Jelgava), Gnedoi (Skonto Riga), Popkov (Kompar Riga), D Sprogis (Kompar Riga), Abzinov (RAF Jelgava), Jeliseev (Skonto Riga), Linards (Orebro, Swe), Glazov (Pardaugava Riga). Substitutes: Sidorov (RAF Jelgava) for Abzinov, 36; Semjonov (Lozma, Pol) for Popkov, 63.

Referee: A Frisk (Sweden).