It was over before it began with the Republic of Ireland tearing apart Gibraltar on a scoreline of 7-0 at the Aviva Stadium.
It was a good day’s work for Robbie Keane in particular. The evergreen captain was on fine form as he scored a hat trick in just 18 minutes against the minnows. Goals from James McClean, Wes Hoolahan and a bizarre own goal from Gibraltar keeper, Jordan Perez, sealed the victory for the Irish.
Manager Martin O’Neill, had warned against complacency in the build up to this game and his team didn’t disappoint in the opening exchanges with the Irish racking up 50 passes in just under five minutes. The Irish piled the pressure on the Gibraltar defence and they were rewarded for their positive start on the sixth minute when Man of the Match, Wes Hoolahan hit a long ball to Aiden McGeady on the edge of the right side of the box. The Everton winger laid it to Keane who had no problem putting the ball in the back of the net and starting off the evening’s proceedings.
Hoolahan was involved again in the build up to the second and third goal to set up Keane to earn his 64th and 65th goals respectively. The Norwich City man took a lofted pass on to his chest before passing the ball through for Keane’s run, who slotted home past Perez. Minutes later, Perez clattered into Hoolahan after failing to clear a shot efficiently. Keane stepped up and the hat trick was complete.
With those three goals, Keane now becomes the top scorer in European Championship qualifying history at 21 goals and now stands 12th in the overall international scorers list on 65 goals with Didier Drogba.
Hoolahan wasn’t to be denied a goal though after a wonderful performance. On the 56th minute, Keane laid the ball into his path. After skipping through an awful defence, he capped off the move with an easy, low shot to the near post that went past Perez.
O’Neill was happy with Hoolahan’s contribution in the game. “Wes did very, very well. Wes here at the Aviva has never failed to play well and he is good, particularly in a night like this here when we are looking for that little bit of craft to break defences down,” said the Irish manager.
The Gibraltar keeper, Perez, was already having a bad day before a sensational own goal added salt to the wound. Robbie Keane’s attempted chip was batted away by the keeper with the ball landing to McGeady. The midfielder’s shot bounced back from defender on the line with the ball. The ball landed at the feet of Perez, who, one can only presume, tried to clear the ball but instead hoofed it into his own net.
This writer had to look around and make sure he was at the Aviva and not at home playing a game of FIFA.
After conceding two more goals, McClean’s second of the night and Hoolahan’s goal, Perez was hauled off by manager Allen Bula. The entire crowd at the Aviva were on its feet as the hapless keeper made his way off.
The Irish will unquestionably be satisfied with this win ahead of their visit to Germany on Tuesday night. However, all eyes will now be on that trip. There were many positives but there were also glimpses in the game that showed the home side lacking concentration, especially in the latter stages when Gibraltar were unlucky not to come away from this game with a goal.
Do this against the Germans and it could be the Irish that end up on the wrong side of a mauling.
Conor McManus, Pundit Arena.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Forde, Ward (Brady 69’), Wilson, O’Shea, Meyler, McGeady, Hendrick, Gibson, McClean, Hoolahan (Doyle 63’), Keane (C) (Murphy 63’)
Substitutes: Elliot, Westwood, Clark, Whelan, Long, Pilkington, Stokes, Quinn, Walters
Goals: Keane (6’, 14’, 18’), McClean (46’, 53’), Perez OG (52’), Hoolahan (56’)
GIBRALTAR: J.Perez (Robba 59’), Wiseman, R.Casciaro, R.Chipolina (C) (Santos 57’), J.Chipolina, Payas, B.Perez, Bado (Guilling 45’), Walker, Gosling, L.Casciaro
Substitutes: Coleing, Artell, K.Casciaro, Lopez, Sergeant, Priestley, Bosio, Garcia, Hernandez
Referee: Leontios Trattou (Cyprus)
Man of the Match: Wes Hoolahan