Keane makes sure Ireland go top after Andorra scare
Republic of Ireland 3 Andorra 1
Ireland duly went top of Group B last night, thanks to a workmanlike goal tally at Lansdowne Road and Slovakia's surprise 1-0 win in Moscow, but there were red faces for the home defence en route as Andorra – rated 201th of the 207 countries in Fifa's world rankings – pulled back to 2-1 with a fine goal from Christian Martinez on the stroke of half-time.
As the little pocket of land tucked between France and Spain had managed only three draws in their 14-year qualifying history, an upset was never a betting proposition. But Irish nerves in the 40,283 crowd were not really settled until the 53rd minute when a sweet passing move involving Paul Green, Kevin Doyle and Aiden McGeady ended with the Spartak Moscow midfielder sliding the ball through to Robbie Keane, who cleverly chipped Jose Antonio Gomes for his 44th Ireland goal.
While the hoped for goal feast never materialised, Ireland were two up and cruising on 40 minutes thanks to Kevin Kilbane and Kevin Doyle. Kilbane's first international goal in nearly four years was a thumping header from a corner on 14 minutes – a corner he had set up when his cross was almost headed in by Doyle only for goalkeeper Gomes to punch away.
Ireland took charge then but struggled to create clear-cut chances, with Keane in particular becoming frustrated as a series of tight offside decisions went against his side. It might have been 2-0 on the half-hour when Liam Lawrence hurried Marc Bernaus in possession in the penalty area and the full-back – Andorra's sole full-time professional – gifted him the ball, but the midfielder could only hit the side-netting as the keeper advanced.
Lawrence was in the thick of the action once again five minutes before the break when he and man of the match Doyle combined to rob Sergio Moreno wide on the Irish right. What followed was all the striker's own work as he cut inside before blasting a left-foot shot into the top corner.
But the quality of his strike was matched by Martinez at the other end within five minutes when the midfielder dispatched an opportunist half-volley past Shay Given.
Ireland Given; St Ledger, Kilbane, O'Shea, Dunne, Whelan, Lawrence, Green, K Doyle, Keane, McGeady.
Andorra Gomes; Bernaus, Silva, I Lima, Pujol, Vieira, Gomez, Moreno, Martinez, Ayala, Escura.
Referee L Trattou (Cyprus).
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