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Ireland 3-0 Latvia

Updated: Friday, 15 Nov 2013 22:52 | Comments

Aiden McGeady's powerfully struck effort put Ireland 2-0 up Robbie Keane opened the scoring
Aiden McGeady's powerfully struck effort put Ireland 2-0 up Robbie Keane opened the scoring

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Martin O'Neill made a winning start as Republic of Ireland manager as goals from Robbie Keane, Aiden McGeady and Shane Long secured a 3-0 victory over Lativa at the Aviva Stadium.

Keane grabbed his 62nd international goal midway through the first half with a typically sharp finish from close range after James McClean flicked on McGeady's corner.

McGeady got on the scoresheet on 67 minutes when he punished a wayward pass from Juris Laizans and drilled the ball low into the bottom corner.

Substitute Long rounded off the scoring ten minutes from time when he applied the finish to a sweeping team move involving Andy Reid, Jon Walters and Seamus Coleman.

It was a night of many positives for the new management duo of O'Neill and assistant Roy Keane, not least the performance of some of the younger players, notably man-of-the-match James McClean.

The Irish players took on board their manager's pre-match appeal for a positive start and dominated the ball and territory from the opening whistle. They impressed as they moved through midfield and harried to get it back on the rare occasions Latvia were in possession.

However, any praise must by tempered by acknowledging that Latvia offered nothing going forward and failed to have an effort on target in the 90 minutes. They were content to get men behind the ball to frustrate their hosts.

The buzz created by the appointment of O'Neill and assistant Keane saw a surge in ticket sales during the week, with tonight's attendance exceeding 35,000.

O'Neill's first team selection differed from most of the pre-match suggestions, with Kieren Westwood starting in goal, as David Forde dropped to the bench. Wes Hoolahan was the preferred man to line-up behind Keane in attack, with Stephen Ward and McClean operating on the left.

A moment of madness from Latvian goalkeeper, Andris Vanins, when he collected the ball outside his area, gave Ireland a chance to turn their early promise in an opening goal.

The short free-kick went from McGeady to Hoolahan, then through John O'Shea's legs and on to Keane's feet. Vanins made up for his error by holding on to the Ireland captain's shot.

O'Neill had been full of praise for his skipper's goalscoring achievements in the build-up to the game and it was little surprise that Keane got the first goal of the new era on 22 minutes.

Keane was quickest to react to McClean's touch from McGeady's corner and he managed to turn the ball past Vanins as five Latvian defenders looked on.

Only a fine low save from Vanins prevented Keane from grabbing his second moments later.

McClean's pace and trickery were a constant threat for Latvian right-back Vladislavs Gabovs. The winger thrilled the crowd with a weaving run into the box on 35 minutes, but he could not apply the finish and dragged his shot wide.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, as Ireland pressed forward and McClean tormented Gabovs, who was eventually booked after 56 minutes for hauling down his man.

McGeady and McClean both had strikes that flew over the bar, before McGeady stung the palms of Vanins with a long-range effort.

However, McGeady did find the net on 67 minutes as the home side deservedly doubled their lead. The Spartak Moscow winger was gifted the ball by Laizans 40 yards from goal, before advancing and firing the ball low past Vanins into the bottom corner.

O'Neill promised to use as many players as possible over the two games this month and a triple change with just over a quarter of an hour to go saw Long, Walters and Reid introduced. All three were involved for the goal of the night.

Reid's quick switch of play found Walters in space. The Stoke man timed his pass perfectly for the flying Coleman on his outside, who squared for Long to rattle the ball into the net from close range.

There was a still time for three more substitutions, one of whom, Anthony Stokes, brought the best out of Vanins with a curling effort that needed to be tipped over the bar.

The Ireland management duo and players will be happy with tonight's performance and result, but they know that tougher tests lie ahead against better opposition, starting with the friendly against Poland in Poznan on Tuesday night.

Republic of Ireland: Kieren Westwood; Seamus Coleman, John O’Shea, Marc Wilson, Stephen Ward; Aiden McGeady (Andy Reid 73), Glenn Whelan (Paul Green 80), James McCarthy (Kevin Doyle 81), James McClean (Anthony Stokes 81); Wes Hoolahan (Shane Long 73); Robbie Keane (Jon Walters 73).

Subs not used: David Forde, Rob Elliot, Sean St Ledger, Alex Pearce, Stephen Kelly, Joey O’Brien.

Latvia: Andris Vanins; Vladislavs Gabovs, Nauris Bulvitius, Kaspars Gorkss, Vitalijs Maksimenko; Renars Rode, Juris Laizans (Alans Sinelnikovs 72), Ritvars Rugins (Aleksandrs Fertovs 27), Aris Lazdins; Valerijs Sabala (Danills Turkovs 62), Varis Verpakovskis (Eduards Visnakovs h/t).

Subs not used: Aleksandrs Kolinko, German Malins, Antons Kruakins, Andrejs Kovajovs, Jurijs Zigajevs, Arturs Zjuzins.

Booked: Gabovs, Bulvitis, Rode.

Referee:  Andreas Ekberg (Sweden)

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