Record-breaker Keane so proud after reaching goals milestone

Irishman fulfils a 13-year prophecy by scoring his 50th international goal –and quickly makes it 51
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Robbie Keane thanked Niall Quinn after he became the first man from Britain or Ireland to score 50 international goals on Saturday. The Irishman struck twice in his country's 2-0 away victory over Macedonia in a key Euro 2012 qualifier.

Keane, who had a pain-killing injection in his groin before the game, said: "I am obviously delighted to be associated with some of the names which are there. I am very delighted and very proud to be amongst that elite. But for me, it's all about the team and how the team performs. It's all about getting three points, and we did that tonight."

Asked if he ever dreamt of scoring 50 goals when he set out on his senior international career as a 17-year-old, Keane replied: "I think it would be very naive for anyone to think that. You can set your stall out to reach certain goals, and my goal was to reach Niall Quinn's record [of 21]. I reached that and then you look to another one, so I am obviously delighted that I did that. When I first came into the Ireland squad, Niall Quinn said to me I would get 50 goals, so it's probably down to him."

Keane needed just eight minutes in Skopje to complete the half-century when, after accepting Keith Andrews' pass, he had both time and space to work his way into a shooting position. His well-struck drive might have troubled goalkeeper Martin Bogatinov anyway, but the flick it took off defender Nikolce Noveski left the goalkeeper with no chance as the ball flew into the net to cue celebrations on and off the pitch.

His second came in the 37th minute when Macedonia central defender Boban Grncharov mis-kicked as he attempted to turn Noveski's pass back to his goalkeeper, and the ever-aware Keane raced in to slide a shot into the bottom corner.

Fellow Irish striker Shane Long paid tribute yesterday, saying: "It's extraordinary when you look at it - and he hasn't played that many games. I think it's one in two, and anything close to that ratio is a great record to have in international football. It will take some beating. He's brilliant. He turns up to every game he can. Every game he's called upon, he will do his best to be there. Last night he played with half a leg, really, his groin was gone. It shows the desire he has. You don't score 51 goals for your country without that passion."

Asked about his injury, Keane said: "It's a bit sore now. I had to get an injection before the game, the last 15 minutes I started to feel it a bit. It's a little bit sore now, but who cares? The other teams won as well, so it was important for us to stay amongst the group, and we did that. I thought we were superb. It will probably go down as a great team performance."

The win set Ireland up perfectly for the September double-header against Slovakia and Russia, which could go a long way towards deciding the outcome of the group. Long added: "We knew before the game that Russia had won 3-1 and we knew this game was very important to keep on their heels We have got Slovakia and Russia in the next two games and they are massive games. But we are in a great position now and it's in our hands."

The Republic face Italy in a friendly in Liège, Belgium, tomorrow, with Shay Given and Kevin Kilbane having been released from duty and Keane likely to join them.

Top British & Irish goalscorers

51 - Robbie Keane (Ire)

49 - Bobby Charlton (Eng)

48 - Gary Lineker (Eng)

44 - Jimmy Greaves (Eng)

40 - Michael Owen (Eng)

35 - David Healy (N Ireland)

30 - Kenny Dalglish, Denis Law (Scot), Tom Finney, Nat Lofthouse, Alan Shearer (all Eng)

28 - Ian Rush (Wales), Steve Bloomer, Vivian Woodward (both Eng)

27 - David Platt (Eng)

26 - Bryan Robson, Wayne Rooney (Eng)

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