O'Neill off to a winning start

Republic of Ireland 3 Latvia 0

The Martin O'Neill era got off to a winning start at the Aviva Stadium when the Republic of Ireland beat Latvia 3-0 with goals from Robbie Keane, Aiden McGeady and Shane Long.

It was just the start that the 37,100 crowd were hoping for and they had plenty to be enthused about as Ireland dominated the game from start to finish

New manager Martin O'Neill received a standing ovation when he took his place in the Irish dug-out alongside his assistant Roy Keane and goalkeeping coach Seamus McDonagh.

From the beginning it was obvious the team had taken on board their manager's wish to play the game high up the field and they dominated the first 20 minutes but only created one clear-cut chance after 12 minutes when Aiden McGeady's short free-kick was drilled low into the box by Wes Hoolahan and Keane's first time shot from six yard was brilliantly saved by Andris Vanins.

But the breakthrough came ten minutes later from another set-piece when McGeady's corner was headed on at the near post but McClean and Keane finished from close range for his 62nd international goal from 131 appearances.

He almost added a second in the 24th minute when he managed to get a shot in despite being surrounded by four players but it was produced another excellent save from Vanins while James McClean came agonising close to his first international goal when he cut in from the left touchline, went past three players and then drilled a low shot into the side netting.

It remained 1-0 at half-time and McClean had great chance after 58 minutes to stretch the lead but blazed over from ten yards after being teed up by Hoolahan while McGeady had a long range effort palmed away by Vanins.

However, McGeady made no mistake in the 68th minute when he latched on to a poor pass out of defence by Juris Laizan and drilled low shot past Vanins from 25 yards.

Martin O'Neill then made the first of two triple substitutions bringing on Andy Reid, Jonathon Walters and Shane Long for McGeady, Keane and Hoolahan

And Walters had an immediate impact after 80 minutes when he fed the overlapping Seamus Coleman and his pull back across the face of goal was turned home at the far post by Shane Long for what was Ireland 700th international goal.

O'Neill's second triple substitution saw Anthony Stokes, Paul Green and Kevin Doyle introduced for Glenn Whelan, James McClean and James McCarthy and Stokes went close on three occasions to adding to Ireland's total.

The final whistle was greeted with cheers and the team now move on to Poznan for another friendly against Poland on Tuesday brimful of confidence.

Republic of Ireland: Keiren Westwood (GK); Seamus Coleman, John O'Shea, Marc Wilson, Stephen Ward; Aiden McGeady, Glenn Whelan, James McCarthy, James McClean; Wes Hoolahan, Robbie Keane (C). Substitutes Used: Andy Reid for McGeady (73), Jonathon Walters for Keane (73), Shane Long for Hoolahan (73), Anthony Stokes for McClean (80), Paul Green for Whelan (80), Kevin Doyle for McCarthy (80). Unused Subs: David Forde (GK), Sean St. Ledger, Stephen Kelly, Joey O'Brien, Alex Pearce, Rob Elliot (GK).

Latvia: Vanins (GK), Gabovs, Bulvitis, Gorkss (C), Maksimenko, Rode, Rugins (Fertovs, 27), Laizans (Sinelnikovs 73), Lazdins, Sabala (Turkovs 62), Verpakovskis. Unused subs: Kolinko, Zigajevs, Kurakins, Zjuzins, Kovalovs, Visnakovs, Malins.

Referee: Andreas Ekberg (Sweden).



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