Robbie Keane took his international goals tally to 67 with a double to kill off battling Gibraltar on a night when the Republic of Ireland’s hopes of Euro 2016 qualification received a significant boost.
The 35-year-old struck twice inside three second-half minutes to extended the first-half lead Derby full-back Cyrus Christie had given his side with his first goal for his country on his competitive debut and in the process killed off any hope of a shock.
Keane, who plundered a 13-minute hat-trick against the same opposition in October’s 7-0 win in Dublin, did not get the opportunity to repeat the feat when he was withdrawn with 20 minutes remaining as Martin O’Neill cast an eye towards Monday night’s game with Georgia at the Aviva Stadium, and it was his replacement Shane Long who completed a 4-0 win in Faro.
The victory, coupled with Scotland’s 1-0 defeat by the Georgians in Tbilisi earlier in the day, saw Ireland leapfrog Gordon Strachan’s side in the table and rekindled their hopes of clinching a play-off spot for next summer’s finals in France.
It was Gibraltar’s seventh successive defeat in the group and they have now conceded 38 goals in total. However they came within two minutes of their longest competitive shut-out, the 28 minutes they managed against Germany in June, before Ireland finally broke the deadlock.
Christie came to the rescue when he drilled a low shot across keeper Jordan Perez and saw the ball squeeze inside the far post, and it would have been 2-0 with 28 minutes gone had the keeper not acrobatically turned Jonathan Walters’ effort over the bar.
Republic of Ireland: Given, Christie, O’Shea, Clark, Hendrick, Hoolahan (McGeady 77), McCarthy (Quinn 70), Whelan, Brady, Keane (Long 71), Walters.Reuse content