Stephen Kenny was quick to praise his players as they handed the Ireland manager his first competitive victory since taking over the position in 2020.
Ireland had only won once in 16 games ahead of tonight's victory against Azerbaijan – an end-of-season friendly victory in Andorra – and Kenny’s side had gone 12 competitive matches without a win ahead of the Baku contest.
And it proved lucky number 13 for Kenny’s new-look Ireland side as they enjoyed a dominant and comfortable 3-0 win away from home, to secure their first win in six during the current World Cup qualifying campaign.
Two Callum Robinson goals put the visitors in a commanding position going into the second half, and while Azerbaijan threatened to get back into the contest, mainly testing keeper Gavin Bazunu from distance, Ireland also enjoyed a host of chances in the second half.
Robinson was unable to secure Ireland’s first-ever hat-trick away from home, however, substitute Chiedozie Ogbene did add the third goal to secure the victory late in the game.
After the game, Kenny admitted that it was a game that Ireland had to win and he was full of praise for the players who secured that all-important victory.
"We needed to win that of course," said Kenny, speaking to RTE Sport after the game.
"It’s not often that Ireland come away from home in a qualifier and win 3-0, so it was brilliant to do that and the players deserve a lot of credit.
"Azerbaijan have some good players that play in the group stages of European competition.
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"You’re never going to dominate, it’s not going to happen. But we had periods where we were very dangerous on the break.
"We had pace, and even though they had good passages of play in the first half, they didn’t have chances.
"The second half, we needed Gavin to make a couple of good saves which is important. Overall the players were terrific."
The manager put his faith in Robinson to inspire his side following a tough week for the West Brom forward who was in the spotlight over his decision not to take the Covid vaccine.
And the lively frontman repaid his manager with two fine goals with either foot to give Ireland a two-goal cushion at the break.
"It’s ironic, the two most difficult chances were the ones he scored, because he had easier chances," said Kenny, when asked about Robinson’s contribution following a tough week.
"He was terrific tonight, he’s a very intelligent player and he brings a lot of creativity to our play. We’ve missed him.
"But overall I thought, the importance of a clean sheet, because we haven’t kept a clean sheet in the qualifiers, it was very important that we did that.
"In the last seven games, bar the 97th-minute defeat in Portugal, that’s the only defeat in seven games.
"We can see the improvement in the team. Listen, we should have won more games that we’ve drawn, and it was important to win tonight.
"We created an awful lot of chances in the second half. The spirit among the players, they were brilliant, a tremendous effort and they deserve huge credit."
Kenny again re-iterated the fact that he did not care about the criticism that has been coming his way, and instead insisted that the side that he is creating is starting to show their potential.
"I don’t care about that. I know we’re creating a team here, a very exciting team. You can see the potential. We’ll get better, I feel. So we have to continue with our work."
Next up for Ireland is a friendly clash with World Cup hosts Qatar in Dublin on Tuesday night, before a November double-header, which sees group leaders Portugal come to Dublin.
We want to go again against Qatar in midweek. Hopefully we'll have a good crowd
And Kenny feels that the momentum that has been building combined with the positive performances and the result in Azerbaijan will lead to a bumper crowd filling the Aviva for the Ronaldo rematch.
"We want to go again against Qatar in midweek. Hopefully we’ll have a good crowd.
"I think we’ll have a full house, 50,000 for Portugal in November. We want that, and that will be special."
Follow Republic of Ireland v Qatar via our liveblog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app, watch on RTÉ 2 and the RTÉ Player or listen to commentary on RTÉ Radio 1 Extra.
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