Record-breaker Keane guides Irish past battling Faroes

Republic of Ireland 2 Faroe Islands 0
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The Independent Online

It probably didn't bode well for the Faroe Islands that one of their players was overheard in the team hotel on the eve of this match asking for directions to Temple Bar. Whether he or his team-mates partook in the delights of Dublin's pubs and clubs district is not known but if they were there after this game they would have heard the chants for Robbie Keane long into the night.

It probably didn't bode well for the Faroe Islands that one of their players was overheard in the team hotel on the eve of this match asking for directions to Temple Bar. Whether he or his team-mates partook in the delights of Dublin's pubs and clubs district is not known but if they were there after this game they would have heard the chants for Robbie Keane long into the night.

The striker broke the record as Ireland's top goalscorer with his 22nd and 23rd goals for his country - two ahead of Niall Quinn - and really should have had his first hat-trick. Aged just 24, Keane should at least double his total, which will be some return. More importantly, the victory took Ireland to the top of Group Four in the World Cup qualifiers. France won, but by no greater margin, in Cyprus and Switzerland and Israel do not play until next month.

There was never any chance of an upset and the score-line was hugely flattering to the visitors, who struggled throughout and did not have a shot on target until the 85th minute. Irish confidence was high, their finishing less so, and despite Keane's goals it was a night shared with the relentless creativity of Damien Duff.

Ireland's manager Brian Kerr had warned, pre-match, that the Faroese were "rough and tough enough" and he has been concerned that his own side is not the biggest. Lou Macari, scouting for the Irish, said, euphemistically, that the Faroes like to "get stuck in". Nevertheless, Kerr started with the team which had finished the draw against France - which meant he resisted using 6ft 1in Gary Doherty and retained Andy Reid, at 5ft 7in, although he was used in midfield.

Kerr wanted his team to pass the ball through their opponents but twice inside three minutes Damien Duff, pushed up front, was dumped to the turf and, after the second offence, a free-kick by Steve Finnan had Jakup Mikkelsen scrambling unconvincingly. The goalkeeper was soon beaten. On 14 minutes Duff set off from the right wing and, at pace, slalomed past four players before being chopped down close to the six-yard area by Jon Roi Jacobsen. It was fluent, it was mesmeric and it was Duff at his best. Robbie Keane knocked in the penalty and the record was his.

Last time out the visitors drew against Cyprus, which followed their good showing in defeat against France. Those results gave perspective to the 6-0 loss to Switzerland, which Kerr had said was a freak and which the Faroes manager Henrik Larsen had blamed on hot weather.

The early goal soon had the Faroese scooping the ball, by head and outstretched leg, ever more frantically, as the Irish attacked in waves. The corner count ticked along and, from one, John O'Shea's goal-bound shot inadvertently struck a defender's heel. The team ranked 119 places below Ireland were starting to look like fodder and after the half-hour Keane got his second. Duff, again, was involved. His slipped the ball inside the defence to the onrushing Roy Keane, who unselfishly squared. It finally broke to Robbie Keane who calmly bundled the ball in.

Moments later and it was almost the hat-trick. But Mikkelsen held his header from Duff's cross while, after that, Reid steered the ball over with the goal untended.

Duff then fluffed an easier opportunity. Released by Kevin Kilbane, he mishit his shot across goal. He did better on 53 minutes, but his left-foot drive from the area's edge skimmed over. Mikkelsen got his body in the way as Robbie Keane shaped to thump in Duff's knockdown before Reid, again, chipped over. Through on goal Robbie Keane just failed to lift the ball over Mikkelsen.

It started to become surprisingly ragged. The frustrations grew. From Duff's pull-back, substitute Liam Miller skied over while Robbie Keane intercepted a back-pass only for the retreating Jacobsen to hack his tame shot off the line. The match ball wasn't his, but the record and the points were.

REP UBLIC OF IRELAND (4-4-2): Given; Carr, O' Brien (all Newcastle United), Cunningham (Birmingham City), O' Shea (Manchester United); Finnan (Liverpool), Kilbane (Everton), Roy Keane (Manchester United), Reid (Nottingham Forest); Duff (Chelsea), Robbie Keane (Tottenham Hotspur). Substitutes used: Miller (Manchester United), for O'Shea, 56; Doherty (Norwich City), for Reid, 75.

FAROE ISLANDS (4-4-2): Mikkelsen (Kl, Klakksvik); Thorsteinsson, Johannessen (both TB Tvoroyri), J Jacobsen (Fremad Amager), Olsen (GI Gota); Borg (HB Torshavn), Johnsson (IA Akranes), Benjaminsen (Fram), R Jacobsen (HB Torshavn); Frederiksberg (Skala), Petersen (B36 Thorshavn). Substitutes used: Lakjuni (HB Torshavn), for R Jacobsen, 57; Flotum ( Fremad Amager), for Frederiksberg, 83; Danielsen (KI Klaksvik), for Borg, 85.

Referee: R Lajuks (Latvia).

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