ROBBIE Keane celebrated his record-breaking 126th cap with a hat-trick as the Republic of Ireland eased past the Faroe Islands to bank three priceless World Cup points.
Scorer: Keane (5, 55, 81)
Referee: M Gestranius (Fin)
The 32-year-old claimed his 57th senior international goal with an accomplished finish with just five minutes gone, and then added another ten minutes after the break from Seamus Coleman’s inviting cross.
But there was more to come as substitutes James McClean and Conor Sammon teamed up to hand him his third of the night and 59th in total on a plate with nine minutes of the game remaining. In truth, Ireland could and probably should have won even more comfortably as they dominated possession throughout a game in which keeper David Forde did not have to make a single save of note.
It was a game Ireland simply had to win if they are to stand any chance of overhauling Austria and Sweden in the race for second place in Group C behind runaway leaders Germany.
And although they might have been more clinical at times, manager Giovanni Trapattoni will have been happy enough with a win which extended his side’s run since their humiliation by the Germans to just one defeat in eight games.
There was an inevitability about the identity of the Republic’s match-winner as the match followed the script to the letter.
It was only five minutes old when the again impressive Wes Hoolahan and Jon Walters exchanged passes before the Norwich playmaker fed the ball out to the left, from where Aiden McGeady crossed for Keane to sweep a first-time left-foot shot past keeper Gunnar Nielsen.
The game was effectively over with 55 minutes played when full-back Coleman, who had been picked out by Hoolahan, curled in a low cross from the right which evaded Walters’ lunge but was promptly dispatched by Keane as he slid in behind him.
The points were wrapped up when Keane struck again with nine minutes remaining after McClean and Sammon had combined to present him with the simplest of chances.
Ireland: Forde, Coleman, O’Shea, St. Ledger, Wilson, McGeady, Whelan, Hoolahan, Walters, Keane, Cox. Subs: Westwood, McClean, Kelly, Delaney, O’Dea, Dunne, McShane, Quinn, Sammon, Hendrick, Andy Keogh, Randolph.
Faroes: Nielsen, Frederiksberg, Gregersen, Baldvinsson, Jonsson, Suni Olsen, Vatnsdal, Simun Samuelsen, Holst, Justinussen, Klettskaro. Subs: Gestson, Naes, Viljormur Davidsen, Edmundsson, Danielsen, Hans Pauli Samuelsen, Mouritsen, Jorgensen.