Keane strikes again as Republic win 1-0

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The Independent Football

Record goalscorer Robbie Keane turned in a Damien Duff cross to give the Republic of Ireland a 1-0 victory over Croatia on Tuesday.

Record goalscorer Robbie Keane turned in a Damien Duff cross to give the Republic of Ireland a 1-0 victory over Croatia on Tuesday.

The Tottenham striker netted his 24th goal in Irish colors for a well-earned victory in a friendly at blustery Lansdowne Road. Although the Republic had several more chances, Croatia went close to snatching a draw and Eduardo da Silva had a shot cleared off the line.

Croatia was unable to field star striker Dado Prso who sustained a head injury playing for Glasgow Rangers against Hibernian on Sunday while goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa missed the team's flight out of Zagreb because of storms in his home town of Split.

Irish coach Brian Kerr gave Sunderland forward Stephen Elliott a debut and the youngster soon made an impact when he floated a first time through ball to Keane who ran clear of the Croatian defense. But goalkeeper Tomislav Butina flung his arms up as the Irishman tried to lob him and forced the ball over the bar.

The Republic went ahead from the corner, however, when Duff dribbled past two defenders on the right and crossed for Keane to flick home with his right foot.

The Croats should have leveled within a minute but Niko Franjkar, allowed a free header by a sleeping Irish defense, headed wide of the far post from Ivica Klasnic's left wing cross.

Croatia sent on FC Brugge striker Bosko Balaban for defender Igor Tudor for the second half and the forward almost equalized within two minutes of the restart. Liam Miller headed Balaban's angled shot off the line with goalkeeper Paddy Kenny well off his line.

But Butina made an amazing save in the 56th minute when Miller cut in from the right and gave Duff the ball in front of goal. The Chelsea star turned to find no defender anywhere near him but the goalkeeper raced off his line to push the ball off his toe as he was about to shoot.

Duff should have increased the Republic's lead in the 68th minute when a looping cross from Gary Breen found him unmarked in front of goal. After controlling the ball on his chest, however, he volleyed it against the crossbar from barely four yards out.

The Croats made several substitutions in the second half and one of the replacements, Brazilian-born Eduardo, almost equalized with eight minutes to go. He got clear of Kenny Cunningham and fired a shot through the legs of substitute goalkeeper Shay Given but Richard Dunne got back to clear the ball off the line.

Lineups:

Ireland - Paddy Kenny; Steve Finnan, Richard Dunne, Gary Breen, John O'Shea; Liam Miller, Graham Kavanagh, Kevin Kilbane; Damien Duff, Stephen Elliott, Robbie Keane.

Croatia - Tomislav Butina, Stjepan Tomas, Robert Kovac, Igor Tudor, Josip Simunic, Jurica Vranjes, Nico Kovac, Dario Srna, Niko Kranjcar, Marko Babic, Ivica Klasnic.

Referee - Gylfi Orrason, Iceland.

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