• FT

    Russia

    3

    Armenia

    1

  • FT

    England

    2

    Switzerland

    2

  • FT

    Latvia

    1

    Israel

    2

  • FT

    Slovakia

    1

    Andorra

    0

  • FT

    Greece

    3

    Malta

    1

  • FT

    Montenegro

    1

    Bulgaria

    1

  • FT

    Iceland

    0

    Denmark

    2

  • FT

    Macedonia

    0

    Rep of Ire

    2

  • FT

    Portugal

    1

    Norway

    0

EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFYING

City Stadium Skopje

Referee: Florian Meyer | Attendance: 30000

* Local time based on your geographic location.

0 - 2

FT

Republic of Ireland

  • Robbie Keane 7'
  • Robbie Keane 36'

Keane breaks 50-goal barrier in Ireland win

Robbie Keane enjoyed a dream return trip to Macedonia as he smashed through the 50-goal barrier to ease the Republic of Ireland to a vital victory.

• Keane relishes joining international elite

Keane, the only survivor of a costly 1-1 qualifier draw in Skopje almost 12

years ago, became the first British or Irish player to complete a half-century

of international goals when he went past England's Sir Bobby Charlton with an

eighth-minute opener.

He doubled his tally for the evening after 37 minutes with a neat finish, and

although there was a major scare for the Irish when Ivan Trickovski smashed a

penalty against the crossbar three minutes later, Keane's contribution proved

decisive.

Victory at the Philip II Stadium was imperative after earlier wins for Russia

and Armenia, and the trio remain locked together at the top of Group B with 13

points each from six games.

Giovanni Trapattoni's side host the Slovakians at the Aviva Stadium in

September and then head for Russia in matches which will have a major say in the

destiny of the group.

Tonight's win was all the more creditable as it was achieved without stalwarts

Richard Dunne and Damien Duff, and with Keane nursing a groin injury which at

one point left a question mark hanging over his participation.

Skopje had not been a happy hunting ground for Ireland in the past, with a 3-2

defeat in 1997 and the 1-1 draw in 1999 severely denting their qualification

hopes for the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 respectively.

However, their luck changed markedly inside a dramatic opening 45 minutes as

Macedonia's hopes of inflicting further misery on the men in green were

comprehensively undone, and largely by their own failings.

Keane needed just eight minutes to complete a famous half-century when, after

accepting Keith Andrews' pass, he was afforded both time and space to work his

way into a shooting position.

His well-struck drive might have troubled goalkeeper Martin Bogatinov anyway,

but the flick it took off defender Nikolce Noveski left the shot-stopper with no

chance as the ball flew into the net to cue delirious celebrations on and off

the pitch.

But Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given, who had earlier been targeted with a laser

pen from the crowd, had to pull off a fine save from Goran Pandev at point-blank

range with 13 minutes gone, and he was back on his feet in time to deal with

Goran Popov's follow-up when it arrived at pace.

Simon Cox thought he had increased Ireland's lead two minutes later, only to

have his strike harshly ruled out for offside and be booked for playing on after

the whistle amid a cauldron of noise into the bargain.

The Republic's luck held when a stumbling John O'Shea brought Pandev down

inside the box with the striker looking to have got beyond him, and German

referee Florian Meyer waved play on.

There was an anxious, moment for Trapattoni when central defender Darren O'Dea

landed awkwardly as he, Given and substitute Ferhan Hasani challenged for a high

ball, but O'Dea's pain was eased markedly eight minutes before the break.

Central defender Boban Grncharov completely miskicked as he attempted to turn

Noveski's pass back to his goalkeeper, and the ever-aware Keane raced in to

slide a shot into the bottom corner.

The Macedonians were handed a golden opportunity to drag themselves back into

the game when Meyer awarded a penalty for O'Shea's crude challenge on Pandev,

but Trickovski let Ireland off the hook.

The atmosphere inside the stadium had changed markedly, and the chants of the

small band of travelling fans were clearly audible, with their Macedonian

counterparts having earlier voiced their displeasure at the break.

The home crowd's mood was not improved 11 minutes into the second half when

Pandev's close-range strike was chalked off for handball as he controlled

Popov's deep cross at the far post before stabbing a shot past Given.

The Ireland goalkeeper had to be at his best to turn away substitute Mario

Durovski's curling 68th-minute effort as it arced towards his top corner, with

the home side making a final desperate push.

But for all their possession, they were unable to unduly trouble Given who was

well protected by the men in front of him to see the Republic across the

finishing line with the minimum of fuss.

Scoring Summary

  • Macedonia
  • Republic of Ireland
Ivan Trickovski (pen miss 41')

Match Stats

  • Macedonia
  • Republic of Ireland
12(7) Shots (on goal) 5(3)
19 Fouls 22
3 Corner kicks 3
2 Offsides 3
45% Time of Possession 55%
0 Yellow Cards 1
0 Red Cards 0
2 Saves 5

Teams

  • Macedonia
  • Republic of Ireland
Substitutes
Substitutions
Shane Long for Simon Cox (64')
Yellow Cards
Simon Cox (15')