Keane saves the day for Trapattoni

Republic of Ireland 2 Georgia 1
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The Independent Football

Robbie Keane celebrated his new lease of life with a precious World Cup double to fire the Republic of Ireland level with reigning champions Italy at the top of qualifying Group Eight.

The 28-year-old captain, whose misery on Merseyside came to an end last week when he returned to Tottenham from Liverpool, turned around a game his side might have lost when he converted a controversially awarded 73rd-minute penalty and then headed home a winner five minutes later to deny Georgia.

Hector Cuper's men had taken a first-minute lead through Alexander Iashvili, and both sides had goals disallowed before Keane struck.

"Conceding a goal like that in the first minute can cost you but luckily enough we got back into game," said Keane. "That's what we have to look at – we're well capable of scoring goals but we have to cut out these mistakes."

The Stoke defender Stephen Kelly was handed a first competitive start under Giovanni Trapattoni but was exposed in the first minute. Georgia striker David Siradze got up well to flick on Ucha Lobjanidze's long ball and, when the hapless Kelly was unable to cut it out, Iashvili stabbed a shot past the helpless Shay Given to give the visitors the perfect start.

With Ireland in disarray, Iashvili was proving a handful and it took a good block from Keith Andrews to prevent him from picking out a team-mate in the middle on 11 minutes after he had created space for himself.

The hosts thought they were back on level terms with 25 minutes gone after some good work from Damien Duff. The Newcastle midfielder cut inside from the right and squared for Andrews, whose side-footed effort found the net with the help of a deflection off Kakha Kaladze. However, Finnish referee Jouni Hyytia ruled that Kevin Doyle had been in an offside position even though he did not get a touch.

Early in the second half, the linesman made amends of sorts when Ireland were rescued by an offside flag. Levan Kobiashvili's shot took a deflection which left Given completely wrong-footed. When the ball came back off the post, Iashvili converted but was ruled to have run offside.

The home side were finally level with 73 minutes gone, and Georgia will count themselves desperately unfortunate after the referee awarded a penalty for handball against defender Lobjanidze when the ball appeared to hit his shoulder. "I didn't see that," said Keane. "I was facing the other way. If it wasn't [a penalty] then sometimes you need a bit of luck. We kept pushing on and I think we deserved it in the end."

The captain sent Lomaia the wrong way from the spot and beat him again in the 78th minute, bravely meeting Aiden McGeady's cross to put his side ahead for the first time in the game.

Republic of Ireland (4-4-2): Given (Manchester City); Kelly (Stoke), O'Shea (Manchester United), Dunne (Manchester City), Kilbane (Hull City); McGeady (Celtic), Whelan (Stoke), Andrews (Blackburn), Duff (Newcastle); Doyle (Reading), Keane (Tottenham). Substitutes used: S Hunt (Reading) for Duff, 79.

Georgia (4-4-2): Lomaia; Lobjanidze, Kaladze, Kvirkvelia, Razmadze; Iashvili, Siradze, Khizanishvili, Gotsiridze (Merebashvilli, 68); Kobiashvili, Menteshashvili (Khmaladze, 70).

Referee: J Hyytia (Finland).