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Republic Of Ireland’s Robbie Keane Hits Hat-Trick Against Abject Gibraltar

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IN the grand scheme of things, this demolition means very little apart from providing further proof that the European Championship qualifiers are worse off for including teams such as Gibraltar. After 14 minutes the result was a foregone conclusion, by the hour mark it made for some very uncomfortable viewing.

The chances of the Republic of Ireland getting a result in Germany on Tuesday remains highly improbable even if their biggest win since defeating Malta 8-0 in 1983 will instil plenty of confidence before the most daunting of fixtures.

But it is impossible to understate how embarrassingly inept Gibraltar were here. Allen Bula’s team were a rabble in football terms, and they face not only a succession of hammerings in this particular campaign but a long, long road until they become anything more than perpetual whipping boys. Then again, what should one expect from a team made up mostly of players from a domestic league where every single fixture is played on the island’s one artificial pitch.

Martin O’Neill, the Irish manager, had asked for patience in the lead-up to the game but the opening goal arrived inside six minutes and from there it spiralled. Wes Hoolahan played an exquisite pass to Aiden McGeady with the outside of his left boot and the Everton winger cut the ball back across goal to Robbie Keane, who comfortably slotted home from eight yards.

Eight minutes later Hoolahan sent through another delightful ball to Keane and with Gibraltar’s goalkeeper Jordan Perez rushing off his line, the home side’s captain rolled the ball into an empty net.

Hoolahan, who was interestingly deployed as a striker alongside Keane instead of in his usual attacking midfield role, produced plenty of quality moments to light up an otherwise tedious affair. He won the penalty which confirmed Keane’s third international hat-trick in the 18th minute, the evergreen LA Galaxy striker sending Perez the wrong way to score a record 20th goal in European qualifiers. Soon after, a Mexican wave began making its way around the stadium, the Irish domination showed no signs of abating.

Within 30 seconds of the restart they had a fourth as Keane turned provider, playing in the unmarked James McClean. Perez’s positioning was abysmal and McClean may never score an easier goal, hitting a gaping net from the six-yard line.

The fifth arrived in bizarre fashion as Perez saved from Keane, Hoolahan’s rebound came back off the line only to strike the unfortunate goalkeeper, who redirected the ball into his own net via the crossbar.

McClean made it six in the 53rd minute after another goalkeeping error before Hoolahan managed a goal of his own. He followed a neat dribble with a carefully dispatched finish into the right corner.

Perez then had the indignity of being taken off after an hour – just before his opposite number David Forde was finally called into action to deny a Joseph Chipolina header. That Perez applauded the home fans, who reciprocated with a standing ovation, gave an idea of how low Gibraltar’s expectations were.

The remainder of the game was played out at friendly pace; the Republic of Ireland hogging possession but failing to inflict any more damage on their deflated visitors. O’Neill’s team will still head to Gelsenkirchen hopeful rather than expectant, but the thought of how Gibraltar will fare against the world champions next month is a bleak one. – The Guardian

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