Ireland off to perfect start
Doyle and McShane hand Republic opening win
Last Updated: 06/09/08 7:18pm
Whelan: Hails his long-range strike
Republic of Ireland navigated a tricky tie against Georgia in impressive fashion as they claimed a 2-1 win.
Geovanni Trapattoni's men put in an assured display as Kevin Doyle and Glenn Whelan grabbed the goals to ensure Levan Kenia's late strike was nothing more than a consolation.
It took just 13 minutes for the Irish to take the lead in a game played in Germany due to political reasons.
Robbie Keane fed a perfectly timed ball to Aiden McGeady on the right and the Celtic man was able to pick out the head of the unmarked Doyle in the middle.
Alexander Iashvili then wasted a couple of decent chances for Georgia, firing a wild effort into the stands and placing a wayward header over the top.
Ireland pushed their luck at times once again as the game entered the second half, with Richard Dunne forced into decisive action on more than one occasion.
However, they secured the points on 70 minutes when Whelan's speculative 35-yard strike dipped wickedly in front of George Loria and the keeper could only look on in horror as the ball squirmed through his grasp.
Georgia did pull one back as the game entered injury-time, with Kenia allowed far too much inside the box to fire past Shay Given and the helpless Paul McShane on the line.
Much of the pre-match build-up had centred around FIFA's decision, prompted by the Football Association of Ireland's concerns, to switch the game to the neutral venue of FSV Mainz's Bruchweg Stadium.
The Georgians were not best impressed, with coach Hector Cuper insisting there was no reason why the tie should not have been played in Tbilisi, and the Argentinian's mood would not have improved when his side figuratively turned up half an hour late for their re-arranged date.
For 30 minutes, Ireland had things all their own way to the extent that goalkeeper Shay Given was a virtual spectator.
Most of the action came at the other end as Doyle marked his 20th senior cap with the opening goal 13 minutes into the campaign.
It came from the Republic's first cohesive attack, Steven Reid feeding the ball out to Keane on the left, the skipper in turn setting up McGeady to cross for the Reading striker to head past the flat-footed Loria.
Trapattoni's side were dominating and might have increased their lead after 27 minutes.
Blackburn defender Zurab Khizanishvili's foul on Keane gave the Irish a free-kick 25-yards out, and when the skipper tapped it square to Steven Reid, he unleashed a stinging low drive which Loria did well to parry before claiming Doyle's looping header after he pounced on the rebound.
But just as it looked as though Ireland had assumed complete control, Georgia made their first big push and went in at the break wondering just how they were doing so still in arrears.
Dangerman Iashvili had earlier flashed two shots well wide of the target, but with eight minutes of the half remaining, he was presented with the most gilt-edged of opportunities.
Iashvili was left unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box as the Republic lined up to defend a Kenia corner, but perhaps surprised at the time and space he had been given, he headed over the bar.
The lively Kenia proved a key figure for the Georgians as the game resumed, finding himself in the thick of the action at both ends of the pitch and testing the masked Kevin Kilbane's willingness to put his body to the test a week after fracturing his cheekbone.
With their lead looking slender, Trapattoni's side knew they needed some insurance, and they could have all but killed the game off within six minutes of the restart.
Defender John O'Shea met McGeady's corner unaccompanied by a white shirt, only to lift his header over the bar.
But Georgia were riding their luck and only just survived a self-inflicted wound with 57 minutes gone.
Keane could not believe his luck as he ran on to a desperately underhit back-pass to Loria and round the keeper and shoot towards goal from a tight angle.
To his despair, the ball came back off the upright and with defenders heading back in numbers to protect Loria's goal, McGeady fired a foot wide after the loose ball had been fed out to him.
But Kenia and Levan Kobiashvili, perhaps sensing that Georgia needed to make their move, started to pull the strings in midfield and but for Dunne's 65th-minute block from Zurab Khizanishvili's shot, they might have been level.
However, Ireland's nerves were settled with 20 minutes remaining when Whelan capped off an expansive passing move by sending in a dipping shot which embarrassed Loria, who could only help the ball into his own net.
Kenia was rewarded for a fine individual display with an injury-time consolation strike, but it was not enough to deny the Irish their win.
|Georgia||Team Statistics||Republic of Ireland|
|0||1st Half Goals||1|
|1||Shots on Target||6|
|4||Shots off Target||5|
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying
Sat 6th Sep - Group I
Macedonia1 - 0Scotland
Norway2 - 2Iceland
Sat 6th Sep - Group D
Wales1 - 0Azerbaijan
Liechtenstein0 - 6Germany
Sat 6th Sep - Group C
Poland1 - 1Slovenia
Slovakia2 - 1N Ireland
Sat 6th Sep - Group H
Georgia1 - 2Rep Ireland
Montenegro2 - 2Bulgaria
Cyprus1 - 2Italy
Sat 6th Sep - Group E
Armenia0 - 2Turkey
Belgium3 - 2Estonia
Spain1 - 0Bos & Herz
Sat 6th Sep - Group B
Moldova1 - 2Latvia
Israel2 - 2Switzerland
Luxembourg0 - 3Greece
Sat 6th Sep - Group A
Albania0 - 0Sweden
Hungary0 - 0Denmark
Malta0 - 4Portugal
Sat 6th Sep - Group F
Ukraine1 - 0Belarus
Andorra0 - 2England
Croatia3 - 0Kazakhstan
Sat 6th Sep - Group G
Romania0 - 3Lithuania
Serbia2 - 0Faroe Islands
Austria3 - 1France
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group A
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group B
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group C
|4||Republic of Ireland||10||14|
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group D
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group E
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group F
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group G
|1||Bosnia and Herzegovina||10||25|
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group H
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group I