Old and new put Republic in charge

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The Independent Online
Republic of Ireland 1

Portugal 0

"We are going back to basics," Jack Charlton had declared in advance and while it was pretty basic at times it was also exhilarating and mightily effective, providing the Republic of Ireland with a prized victory at Lansdowne Road to take them above Portugal and back to the leadership of Group Six.

From first to last the game flourished and sparkled and deserved to be decided by something more spectacular than an untidy deflection of the goalkeeper's elbow. No matter. Now it will take something out of the ordinary to deny Ireland a place in the European Championship.

The Portuguese were so vulnerable the Irish could have comfortably trebled their score as the visitors pushed men forward late on.

These were the first points they had lost in this section and their laudable efforts to maintain a flawless sequence provided an appreciative Dublin crowd with a spectacle free of international football's accustomed caution.

The visitors sprinkled it throughout with some audacious skills but were let down by their failure to make the final pass count. By contrast, the host nation relied on traditional virtues: commitment and heart and steely discipline.

There were immaculate performances clad in green all over the pitch putting to bed the sour memory of last month's disappointing draw with Northern Ireland. None more so than Gary Kelly who, when the Portuguese threatened, was so often there to tidy up.

When called upon, the goalkeeper, Alan Kelly, also responded in fine style.With this pair the Irish future is in good hands.Yet the older generation, the returning Ray Houghton and John Aldridge, also showed that it is a future which will not abandon them just yet.

Niall Quinn missed a hat trick of chances in the second half alone but Charlton was grateful for the one goal, no matter how fortunate. When, on the stroke of half-time Steve Staunton crossed, Aldridge could not quite stretch to make contact and the ball came off the arm of Vitor Baia and trickled over the line.

"You don't always get everything you want in this game and I am delighted with the result," Charlton said. "The players worked and chased and did everything that I have asked them to do."

For the first 15 minutes the Republic were cast in the role of onlookers as Portugal made good their promise to take the game to them. Charlton's men hung on and slowly established themselves.

Quinn was instrumental when the first outstanding chance came, feeding Phil Babb down the left whose cross was almost turned in, first by Aldridge and then Houghton.

Just before the crucial breakthrough Houghton hit the post. He also had the goal at his mercy after the interval, only to over run the ball. Astonishingly, Quinn missed with a header when standing within touching distance of the goal line. Inbetween Kelly saved superbly from Domingos.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (4-4-2): A Kelly (Sheffield United); G Kelly (Leeds), McGrath (Aston Villa), Babb (Liverpool), Irwin (Manchester United); Houghton (Crystal Palace), Sheridan (Sheffield Wednesday), Townsend, Staunton (Aston Villa); Aldridge (Tranmere), Quinn (Manchester City). Substitutes: Kenna (Blackburn Rovers) for Houghton, Cascarino (Marseille) for Aldridge, 84.

PORTUGAL (5-3-2): Vitor Baia; Joo S Pinto, Jorge Costa (all Porto), Fernando Couto (Parma), Helder (Benfica); Paulinho Santos (Porto); Figo (Sporting Lisbon), Paulo Sousa (Juventus), Rui Costa (Fiorentina); Joo V Pinto (Benfica), Domingos (Porto). Substitutes: Folha (Porto) for Helder, 64; Pedro (Guimares) for Figo, 76.

Referee: A Amendolia (Italy).