Keane marks emotional return with solid display

Republic of Ireland 1 Romania 0
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The Independent Football

Roy Keane took just eight minutes to underline his Republic of Ireland return, in the friendly international against Romania at Lansdowne Road last night.

Roy Keane took just eight minutes to underline his Republic of Ireland return, in the friendly international against Romania in Dublin last night.

The Manchester United captain caused a wave of excitement with a storming run from midfield to the right edge of the area before delivering a dangerous, low cross-cum-shot which Romania's goalkeeper, Bogdan Lobont, did well to block as Clinton Morrison charged in.

It did not produce a goal, though it was an apt example of what the Irish had been missing during Keane's two-year international exile, following his infamous fall-out with the former manager Mick McCarthy in the run-up to the 2002 World Cup. A Keane-inspired Ireland won 1-0 thanks to a fine volley from Matt Holland on 85 minutes.

"Roy played well and could have been Man of the Match," said the Ireland manager, Brian Kerr, who was given an insight into what might have been if Keane had been available during the unsuccessful Euro 2004 qualifying campaign. "His passing was accurate and he showed why we wanted him back. He made a fantastic contribution."

"We had lots of chances and it was a brilliant goal. We had a nice shape about us and Roy and Matt set the tone for the game," Kerr added.

With Kenny Cunningham retaining the captain's armband Keane was the last player in the Irish line-up to emerge from the tunnel. Any jeers from fans who did not want him back were drowned out by the cheers and when a chorus of "Keano" rang around the ground the midfielder turned and applauded each section of the crowd. The first mighty cheer came seconds after kick-off ­ Morrison passed to Keane for his first touch.

With the Keane business finally settled, it was time for Kerr's men to try to continue their run of just one defeat during the 14 matches in his tenure.

They faced a Romanian side who humbled Germany 5-1 in their last outing and who looked dangerous last night even when missing several star names.

It was also a landmark occasion for the other Keane, the Tottenham striker Robbie. Aged just 23 but with 19 goals to his name, he earned his 50th cap and was hoping to make inroads into Niall Quinn's tally of 21 to become the country's record goalscorer. He is on 19 goals so far but he wasted one good chance when he shot straight at Lobont after 21 minutes, before another fine Irish move deserved a goal after 34 minutes.

Andy Reid picked out Robbie Keane on the right, who squared across goal only for Morrison to be left with a lunge too far.

Roy Keane had played a part in that move and he looked to be enjoying himself in a midfield including two youngsters, Nottingham Forest's Reid and his new Old Trafford team-mate Liam Miller.

The script was almost completed after 50 minutes. Roy Keane came within inches of scoring, a good block denying his follow-up after Bogdan Stelea had saved Robbie Keane's drive.

Ireland's joyous night was completed when they scored the winner with five minutes left. Morrison crossed from the right and Holland hit a peach of a volley which crept inside the bottom far corner of the net, despite Stelea getting a hand to it.

The final minute saw the announcement of the Man of the Match ­ not Roy Keane but Miller. Still, it was clear who the real winner of the night was and the fans were still chanting his name long after the final whistle.

Republic of Ireland (4-4-2): Given; Finnan, Maybury, Cunningham, O'Brien; Miller, Roy Keane, Holland, Andy Reid (Rowlands, 78); Morrison, Robbie Keane. Substitutes not used: Doherty, Clarke, Kinsella, Douglas, Kenny, McPhail, Barrett, Lee, Doyle, Colgan, Quinn, McGeady.

Romania (4-4-2): Lobont (Stelea, h-t); Dumitru, Dancia (Petre, 78), Iencsi (Barcauan, 90), Radoi (Constantin, 81); Soava, Dica (Alexa, 78), Ganea (Niculae, 87), Plesan (Aliuta, 61), Danciulescu (Neaga, 61), Ghionea.

Referee: Jaroslav Jara (Cz Rep).