The Republic of Ireland were looking for a much improved performance tonight in their first ever meeting with Moldova.
The game got off to the best possible start for Martin O’Neill and his side when a brilliant pass from Wes Hoolahan set up Shane Long to put Ireland ahead after less than two minutes.
Ireland applied pressure from there on out in the first half without looking particularly penetrating, and were punished for their failure to score a second when a big lapse in concentration from Shane Duffy allowed Igor Bugayev to race through and send the sides in level at the break.
Ireland retook the lead in the second half as two goals from James McClean settled the tie, but Ireland made hard work of this once again, against a side that could have been put to the sword much sooner.
Republic of Ireland Player Ratings
Darren Randolph – 6: Had nothing to do in the first half except pick the ball out of the net. Needs to improve his distribution, and looked nervous in his box at least once in the second half.
Seamus Coleman – 7.5: Seems to have developed a penchant for dribbling. It won’t always work – and didn’t always work tonight – but Coleman drove forward every chance he got. The captain’s role seems to be suiting him more and more with each game.
Shane Duffy – 4.5: Error-prone, and that was on show in all its dubious glory tonight. Out of position for the Moldova equaliser and never recovered. Will be very lucky to start ahead of Richard Keogh in Austria.
Ciaran Clark – 6: Could also have done better for Moldova’s goal, but Clark at least looked a lot more comfortable on the ball. Pushed forward in the second half as Ireland knocked on the door to go ahead again.
Stephen Ward – 7: Has been solid enough to lose his scapegoat status, and it was more of the same here. Ward is doing his job extremely well and that solidity has immense value.
Glenn Whelan – 6: Could he have done better for the conceded goal too? Perhaps, but overall Whelan was playing for his place here and didn’t deliver apart from a few moments of physicality.
James McCarthy – 6: Quiet, but then he’s still not fit so too much should not be expected of McCarthy. Needed to start but if Stephen Quinn was fit that might not have been the case.
Wes Hoolahan – 8.5: Had a brilliant first half and supplied a beautiful pass for Long’s goal. Always looked to get on the ball when he didn’t have it, and always looked to create a chance when he did. Faded slightly in the second half, but his importance to this team was evident throughout. A masterful performance.
Jonathan Walters – 6.5: Used his physical presence well, to a much better effect than last Thursday. Got a lot more involved when he moved to a central role, and did well to create space for McClean’s first goal.
James McClean – 8: Tireless work rate from McClean once again. Had a few chances, as he did against Georgia, but got his reward tonight with two goals. Still underrated by too many.
Shane Long – 7: A similar sort of performance to Thursday, with the added bonus of a well-taken finish for the goal. Came off injured after an hour.
Callum O’Dowda (Long 63) – 6.5 Looked to get on the ball every chance he got. Given the way the game was going at the time it was encouraging to see O’Dowda look to be so involved and try to make things happen on his competitive debut.
David Meyler (McCarthy 80) – N/A: Not enough time to make an impact
Eunan O’Kane (Hoolahan 83) – N/A: Not enough time to make an impact