Keane steals the show as the Faroe Islands are reduced to bit parts
LA Galaxy star celebrates his record-breaking 126th cap with a hat-trick
Republic of Ireland’s Robbie Keane celebrates scoring his third goal of the game at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Rep of Ireland 3 Faroe Islands 0: There can be few of those cheesy testimonials in which stars gather and stage an elaborate show to honour a veteran of the game go more sweetly to script than this, a sort of Robbie Keane extravaganza it seemed by the end.
Sure, the Irish got the three points they required to keep their hopes of World Cup qualification alive at least into the autumn and Giovanni Trapattoni was treated to the sort of performance he generally seems to feel is utterly beyond this team he manages.
Ultimately, though, the entire affair had a sense of being one long celebration of Keane’s contribution to the the cause with the Irish skipper marking his record breaking 126th international appearance with the second hat-trick of that remarkable international career.
There was no great shame in conceding three for a Faroese side that was consistently and completely outplayed but, more painful perhaps, as they left the field at the end of a terribly one sided game, they could have been forgiven for feeling like paid extras in somebody else’s party.
From the outset the pattern of things had been pretty clear with Ireland able to knock the ball almost at will up to the edge of the opposition area, the challenge being at that stage to find a way of getting it into the Faroese net.
Keane’s first goal after four and a half minutes suggested that that wasn’t going to be much of a challenge and while there really weren’t as many goals as there ought to have been over the course of the 90 minutes, his three ensured that those who had come out to support the team got to go home again with a spring in their step.
The Dubliner took all of his goals, two of which came in the second half, well, but there many other aspects of the performance for Trapattoni to savour, with the likes of Wes Hoolahan, Aiden McGeady and, after he arrived on, Connor Sammon, contributing much to an impressive collective display, albeit against decidedly modest opponents.
Hoolahan was again amongst the standout performers for Ireland with the 31 year-old’s consistently clever and composed use of the ball at the heart of the Irish win. The midfielder played a key role in all of Ireland’s goals but more generally gave the whole team a controlled and considered look about it.
His ability to find team mates in space might, one suspects, be more severely tested against better opponents but on this occasions he did just about everything that might have been asked of him, consistently presenting those around him with opportunities to get at or behind the Faroese defence while lending a hand on that side of things too on the rare occasion that the situation required it.
Outside him to the left, McGeady looked lively and inventive, although his admission the other day that he seems to lose his head slightly when presented with goal scoring opportunities for Ireland was certainly borne out here. The winger repeatedly got Ireland into attacking gear by driving forward into space down the left, running at and beating opponents with ease, but generally then did better when he then sought to set up others rather than shoot himself, even if he did test Nielsen once or twice.
Ireland’s build-up play, in which Hoolahan played a central role, was consistently good, with just about everybody playing their part in a far more flowing passing performance than the regulars at Lansdowne Road are used to seeing.
The crowd was treated to a varied attacking game by the home side, who threatened as much from long David Forde punts forward as they did from far more intricate passing moves with even a couple of well worked training ground setpieces thrown in, but a mixture of poor finishing, desperate defending a couple of decent saves by Gunnar Nielsen ensured that things were kept respectable from Lars Olsen’s point of view.
Even he must have wondered how his side were getting away with it at times.
The opening goal certainly must have left him expecting the worst. Hoolahan found McGeady in acres of space out wide and after he had crossed first time, the Irish skipper managed to turn the ball unchallenged from six yards out. It wasn’t the greatest of finishes but it was good enough.
Ireland taking an early lead in a home game might be common enough but the extent to which they dominated the exchanges that followed was more or less unprecedented in recent history. Still, it took them a long time to get a second and while Trapattoni will have been pleased with a great deal of what he saw, the Italian must have been anxious that his side was failing to make certain of the outcome.
About as close as the Faroese came to grabbing an unlikely equaliser while Ireland still only had the single goal advantage was a badly fluffed shot by Heini Vandsdal nine minutes into the second half after Christian Holst had done well to win possession out on the right.
Almost from the kick-out that followed, though, Ireland doubled their lead with Glenn Whelan feeding Cox, who in turn found Hoolahan at which stage the Dubliner skipped past Suni Olsen before playing the ball into the path of Séamus Coleman, whose wonderfully weighted low first time cross ran beyond Walters for Keane to turn home.
Walters had a frustrating night with nothing quite falling right for him but Sammon made his mark after replacing the Stoke striker, his deft touch and turn setting up Keane’s third nine minutes from time. This one started with a James McClean corner that was cleared as far as Hoolahan who played it swiftly back to the Sunderland winger on the right.
He, in turn, found his fellow substitute just short of the near post. Sammon still had a bit to do at that stage but he did it very well.
If Hoolahan’s performance was another victory for Trapattoni’s critics then, on balance, the Derby striker’s contribution provided the Italian with a little vindication too.
Keane, meanwhile, simply left no room for reasonable debate regarding his importance. He said on Thursday he would stick around as long as he keeps scoring goals and the evidence provided here, he is likely to be with us for quite some time to come