Robbie Keane fired himself back on to the goal trail as the Republic of Ireland eased past Andorra to complete a perfect start to their Euro 2012 campaign.
The 30-year-old insisted during the run-up to the first competitive game at
the Aviva Stadium that he would not dwell on an uncharacteristically
unproductive trip to Armenia last week, and he was as good as his word to extend
his national record tally to 44 on his 102nd appearance.
Another centurion, Kevin Kilbane, had started the ball rolling with a
14th-minute header, and the Republic were cruising when Kevin Doyle blasted home
a superb second five minutes before half-time.
Andorra, who had taken a shock lead on their last visit to the then Lansdowne
Road back in 2001, hit back through midfielder Christian Martinez during the
dying seconds of the first half to cause consternation in Dublin.
However, Keane restored his side's two-goal advantage within nine minutes of
the restart, and it was plain sailing from there.
The margin of victory may not have been wide enough for some among a crowd of
40,283, but six points from a possible six on a night when Group B favourites
Russia had earlier lost at home to Slovakia represented mission accomplished.
And there was also the welcome sight of winger Aiden McGeady terrorising
defences in a green shirt once again to celebrate as Ireland turned their
attention to the much more taxing double-header against Russia and Slovakia next
Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni has warned his players the hard
work starts now after seeing them climb to the top of Euro 2012 qualifying Group
Trapattoni said: ''We can take confidence now. We have started the campaign and
we are top of the table. It is not my habit to under-estimate teams like Macedonia, for example, but I
think Slovakia and Russia will be our main competition.
''We have six points, like Slovakia, but now we have to look to next month. The
competition starts now.''
There was surprise in Dublin as news of Russia's 1-0 defeat in Moscow filtered
through, although Trapattoni admitted it was no shock to him. He said: ''It is not a surprise for me. I think Slovakia will be a strong team,
like Russia. Those two teams will be the competition for us for first place.
''I am glad not only with the result, but I am glad because
the team understood what I wanted them to do. I spoke to them about playing with enthusiasm and personality and looking immediately to score a goal.
''We had an opportunity to do that and then Kevin Doyle scored a beautiful
goal, a fantastic goal. It was just a pity we conceded straight away. They had one shot and it went in the top corner, but that's football. We had
a good reaction and we made sure of the victory.
''Now the team is playing the way I want it to. We can play good football and
when there are difficult situations, we defend those situations. There were 10 minutes in the first half when Andorra were better than us, but the team had the right mentality. They wanted to win. But now we must continue.''
Trapattoni was particularly pleased for Keane, who passed up a series of
opportunities to edge closer to the 50-goal barrier in Armenia, and celebrated
accordingly after finding the back of the net. He said: ''He had opportunities in last game - he hit the post and had
other possibilities to score a goal, and he also should have had a penalty.
''For a striker, it is important to score goals and I am happy for him because
it is not easy. He and Kevin Doyle worked very hard and after an hour, they were
a little bit tired after the battle in Armenia.''