Longford super fan Caroline Ginty was in Baku to cheer on Stephen Kenny's Republic of Ireland to a 3-0 victory away to Azerbaijan thanks to goals from Callum Robinson and Chiedozie Ogbene in Baku.
Azerbaijan 0-3 Republic of Ireland
This was the first win of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign for Ireland and a deserved victory for Manager Stephen Kenny.
Ireland started the game brightly with Daryl Horgan shooting wide within the first couple of minutes following a clever turn of pace in the box.
The pressure continued and Ireland were rewarded shortly after thanks to an excellent goal from Robinson. The West Bromwich Albion man was played in following some great play by James McClean and made no mistake with his effort, firing into the roof of the net from outside the box to open the scoring.
Azerbaijan started to dominate possession for a period following the goal but failed to turn that into many chances of note. Goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu was forced into a save by Ozobic in the 23rd minute but it was comfortable in the end for the Ireland shot-stopper who got down well and held onto the ball.
Robinson had a chance to get his second at the 30-minute mark as he displayed excellent technique on the volley from inside the box but his effort whistled just wide of the post.
Not to worry though, he got his second just minutes after that opportunity in the 39th minute. It was another sublime strike as Robinson cut inside to beat his man before placing an effort into the bottom right from outside the box. The goal was awarded after a quick VAR review.
There was no further chances of note and the half-time whistle sounded. It was a brilliant first half by Ireland and particularly Robinson.
Horgan, who played the pass for the second goal, was replaced at half-time for St Mirren’s Jamie McGrath.
The second half kicked off and, like the first, Ireland started with great intensity by pressuring the opposition at every given opportunity.
McClean had a good chance minutes after the restart as he ran from inside his own half into the opposition box. He let go with a rasping shot but a brilliant block by Haghverdi denied him a potential goal. Shane Duffy and Robinson came close shortly after within minutes of each other, the latter having his shot saved and the former heading wide of the post.
Bazunu produced heroics during the last international break and he was at it again today. He produced a fantastic reflex save to deny Huseynov in the 70th minute. Ten minutes later and he produced another great save onto the bar to deny Garayev who produced a powerful shot from outside the box.
Duffy went close to a goal in the 86th minute as he headed towards goal from a corner but it was a great save by Magomedaliyev who kept it at 2-0.
Robinson was in the mood and had another chance to claim his hat-trick as the game approached the 90th minute. Ogbene, who had come on earlier in the half, produced a great cross onto Robinson’s head but it was straight at the keeper who dealt with it appropriately.
The game was coming to an end but Ireland weren’t done yet. Ogbene scored his first goal for Ireland just past the 90th minute mark as he headed in just over the line. Again, there was a VAR check but the goal stood. Great moment for the Rotherham United man.
Ireland were looking for a fourth and substitute Troy Parrott went close after a number of efforts at the Azeri goal.
The full-time whistle sounded shortly after and it was a 3-0 win for Ireland, Stephen Kenny’s first competitive win of his Ireland tenure.
Despite a couple of scares, it was a fantastic performance from the Boys in Green who were good value for their win.
Republic of Ireland: Gavin Bazunu, Matt Doherty, Shane Duffy, John Egan, Andrew Omobamidele, James McClean, Josh Cullen (Conor Hourihane 92), Jeff Hendrick, Daryl Horgan (Jame McGrath 46), Callum Robinson (Troy Parrott 92), Adam Idah (Chiedozie Ogbene 60).
Azerbaijan: Shakrudin Magomedalieyv, Maksim Medvedev, Abbas Huseynov, Hojjat Haghverdi, Anton Krivotsyuk (Renat Dadasov 78), Tural Bayramov (Araz Abdullayev 62), Gara Garayev, Emin Makhmudov, Filip Ozobic, Mahir Emreli, Namik Alaskarov (Ramil Sheydaev 62).
Referee: Espen Eskås (Norway).
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