Football / World Cup: North surrender to Townsend's touch

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Republic of Ireland. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

Northern Ireland . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

A GRIM battle was expected, but this was something of a bloodless coup. The Republic, three goals ahead within half an hour, won pulling up and so maintained their almost flawless World Cup Group Three qualifying campaign while dealing a severe blow to their sadly outclassed Northern counterparts.

Northern Ireland would be one of the last teams you would expect to roll over and wag their tails in the Republic fortress which is now Lansdowne Road, but that is what happened.

The gulf between the two sides was most pronounced in midfield. Andy Townsend won the toss, elected to play with the wind and along with the roving Ray Houghton - afforded acres of space on the right flank - proceeded to dictate the exchanges.

The visitors rarely tracked the Republic's runs from midfield. By the time Billy Bingham sought to rectify matters after the break - with the result that only one of his midfield quartet finished the game where he started it - the damage was done. The strong wind upset some of the Republic's early passing movements, but they created two excellent goals in the 20th and 32nd minutes.

The first saw Dennis Irwin work a neat triangle from a quick throw-in before Niall Quinn deftly laid off the full-back's chip into the area for Townsend to score with a rare right- foot shot across Tommy Wright. Then Quinn completed a six-man move by stealing a yard on Alan McDonald to score with a delicate flick of his right foot.

The third owed more to the North's capitulation, Staunton scoring directly with a viciously low, inswinging corner which deceived an embarrassed Iain Dowie and Wright.

'There's only one team in Ireland,' chanted the home crowd, rubbing salt in Northern wounds, and Quinn, heading wide from five yards, should have made it four before the break. Though the interval interrupted their momentum, the Republic continued to carve out the better openings.

'Don't laugh,' Jack Charlton said when the suggestion that the Republic could win the World Cup prompted a disbelieving giggle. 'You never know with us.'

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Bonner (Celtic); Irwin (Man Utd), Phelan (Man City), McGrath (Aston Villa), Moran (Blackburn), Keane (Nottm Forest), Townsend (Chelsea), Houghton (Aston Villa), Quinn (Man City), Coyne (Tranmere), Staunton (Aston Villa). Substitutes: Cascarino (Chelsea) for Coyne, 78; McGoldrick (Crystal Palace) for Quinn, 84.

NORTHERN IRELAND: Wright (Newcastle); Donaghy (Chelsea), Worthington (Sheff Wed), Taggart (Barnsley), McDonald (QPR), Morrow (Arsenal), Magilton (Oxford), O'Neill (Dundee Utd), Dowie (Southampton), Gray (Luton), Hughes (Strasbourg). Substitutes: Quinn (Reading) for Magilton, 51; Black (Nottm Forest) for O'Neill, 74.

Referee: K Rothlisberger (Switzerland).