Irresistible Ireland

Liechtenstein 0 Republic of Ireland 5 (Townsend 5, O'Neill 7, Quinn 11, 61, Harte 19) Attendance: 3,900
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Mick McCarthy's new-look Republic of Ireland side put last year's goalless flop against Liechtenstein far behind them yesterday when they swept past the part-timers in the stadium in which Jack Charlton's side failed so lamentably 14 months ago.

That result cost them a place in the finals of Euro 96 and led to the manager's resignation. Yesterday a band played before the game, but if there was any worry about the carnival atmosphere blunting the Irish hard edge it did not last long, and the contest was over inside 20 minutes.

The captain, Andy Townsend, opened the scoring after four and a half minutes. Ray Houghton and Steve Staunton played a quick one-two from a corner, the cross went in from the left and although Gary Breen's close- range shot was hacked off the line it ran only as far as the edge of the box, from where Townsend thumped home a rising drive.

Three minutes later 20-year-old Keith O'Neill made it 2-0, taking advantage of a dreadful defensive slip when the full-back Martin Stocklasa tried to turn Ian Harte's long throw back to his goalkeeper, Martin Heeb, but under-hit it, allowing O'Neill to nip in and tuck it under the keeper.

After 11 minutes Staunton delivered the ball perfectly for the overlapping Harte, who crossed from the left for Niall Quinn to make it 3-0, and after 19 minutes Harte chipped over Heeb to make it four.

The Republic's new-look back three had yet to be tested, but then Franz Schadler was put through in the 22nd minute. He beat Shay Given with a low shot, only to see the offside flag raised.

With the work in effect done in the first 20 minutes Ireland visibly relaxed the pace towards the end of the first half. During the interval, the Eschen Sportpark was treated to the sight of a streaker, and the Liechtensteiners were laid bare during a second half in which Heeb formed virtually a one-man barrier. He had a lucky escape in the 51st minute, when O'Neill appeared to be tripped in the box. The referee let play go on with Breen in a shooting position, but the shot was blocked on the line and there was no award of what looked a blatant penalty.

Heeb was powerless to prevent the fifth goal 10 minutes later, Quinn scoring his second from point-blank range with a header.

l Northern Ireland's World Cup qualifying campaign got off to a disappointing start yesterday when the Ukrainian substitute, Sergei Rebrov, headed the only goal 11 minutes from the end to give his side victory in the Group Nine match in Belfast.