Ireland rout Gibraltar, Scotland edge Georgia
The Republic of Ireland and Scotland both won their Euro 2016 qualifiers on Saturday, but in markedly different fashion.
Paris: The Republic of Ireland and Scotland both won their Euro 2016 qualifiers on Saturday, but in markedly different fashion.
While Martin O`Neill`s Ireland inflicted a 7-0 drubbing on minnows Gibraltar in Dublin, over in Glasgow Scotland were edging a nervy 1-0 encounter with Georgia.
A quickfire Robbie Keane hat-trick helped Ireland make it two from two in Group D, with the wide margin win lifting them to the top of the table ahead of world champions Germany`s visit to Poland later.
Veteran LA Galaxy star Keane`s treble had Ireland firmly in control inside 18 minutes, with Gibraltar, boasting only two full-time players, doing well in the end to avoid a double-digit defeat.
Gibraltar, with a population of fewer than 30,000 people and just 600 registered footballers, were not expected to offer much in the way of resistance but did at least keep the score to 3-0 before half-time.
However, the floodgates opened after the break as James McClean scored twice, Gibraltar keeper Jordan Perez put through his own net and Wes Hoolahan made it 7-0 before the hour mark.
Keane has now scored 21 goals in European qualifiers which moves him one ahead of former Turkey striker Hakan Sukur.
Keane and Ireland meanwhile have tougher opposition waiting for them on Tuesday when they take on Germany in Gelsenkirchen.
Scotland, who had shown plenty of promise in their their opening loss to the Germans, secured their first win courtesy of a deflected Shaun Maloney strike in the 28th minute.
The home side, buoyed by that good performance last month, dominated early possession at Ibrox.
However, the Scots could find no way past an organised Georgian defence until their pressure paid off just before the half hour when Maloney`s well-drilled shot came off defender Akaki Khubutia on its way over the line.
Scotland missed a hatful of second half chances with strikers Steven Naismith and Steven Fletcher both shunning good opportunities.
Gordon Strachan`s men were very nearly made to pay for their wastefulness when substitute Irakli Dzaria was afforded time and space for a shot inside the Scotland box but the Georgian fired just wide.
This seemed to be the wake-up call Scotland needed and only a brilliant save from Giorgi Loria then denied James Morrison after Fletcher had set him up.
In Bucharest, Romania were held 1-1 by Hungary in Group F and there was an identical outcome to the Group I clash between Armenia and Serbia in Yerevan.
Germany travel to Warsaw in a 1945 GMT kick-off aware that they must adapt to their newfound status as world champions, manager Joachim Loew says.
Nearly three months after lifting the World Cup in Rio de Janeiro, Loew brings a very different squad to Poland from the one which triumphed in Brazil.
Injury and retirements mean only 15 of Germany`s 23-man World Cup squad are available and the absence of Arsenal`s attacking midfielder Mesut Ozil has thrown Loew`s plans for the match at Warsaw`s National Stadium "into disarray".
The 54-year-old acknowledges though the world champions are now the team to beat and he expects Poland to give their all in chasing a maiden win over Germany at the 19th attempt.
"Opponents are giving that little bit extra against us in the hope of beating the world champions and neither of these games will be easy for us," said Loew with an eye to the Ireland tie next week.
The home side, buoyed by a good performance in their narrow 2-1 defeat by world champions Germany in their opening fixture, dominated early possession at Ibrox.
However, the Scots could find no way past an organised Georgian defence until their pressure paid off in the 28th minute when Maloney`s well-drilled shot came off defender Akaki Khubutia on its way over the line.
Scotland missed a host of second half chances with strikers Steven Naismith and Steven Fletcher both shunning good opportunities to give their side some breathing space.
Irakli Dzaria fired wide on a rare foray forward by Georgia and James Morrison saw a late chance superbly saved by Giorgi Loria as Scotland picked up their fifth win in eight games.
Scotland manager Gordon Strachan, who has masterminded his side`s rise up the world rankings since taking over, hailed his team`s performance.
"That was the best hour or 75 minutes we have had as a football team since I have been here," the Scotland boss said.
"To make that many chances is a manager`s dream and I thought the players were fantastic."
Georgian manager Temur Ketsbaia thought it was a fair result.
"Scotland played better than we played and created the chances. I am happy with the second half but we have to start playing like that from the first minute," the former Newcastle player said.
"We had a good chance in the second half but I cannot say we deserved something from the game."
Regular Scotland captain Darren Fletcher had found himself on the bench as one of four changes Strachan made from the narrow defeat to world champions Germany.
Scott Brown returned from injury and Fletcher was handed the task of partnering the in-form Naismith up front.
A succession of Scottish corners eventually led to the home side making the breakthrough in the 28th minute.
Maloney`s corner ping-ponged around the box before making its way back to him at the edge of the box and his rasping low shot squirmed under keeper Loria and a deflection off defender Khubutia before trundling over the line.
With the pressure lifted, Scotland began to create more opportunities with Naismith next to try his luck from the edge of the box but his effort took a wicked deflection and went straight into the arms of Loria.
Strachan`s side should have moved further ahead moments later when a neat interchange between Maloney and Naismith released the striker in the box but the Georgian keeper was quick off his line to mop up the danger.
Brown then saw his curling shot whistle just by the post as Scotland went into the break on a high.
Scotland continued to push forward after the break and, just as it did against Germany, Ikechi Anya`s pace caused the Georgian defence problems with Murtaz Daushvili entering the referee`s book for cruelly halting his surging run.
Alan Hutton, enjoying a new lease of life at Aston Villa after two seasons in the wilderness, stampeded forward down the right before finding Naismith in the box only to see his former Rangers teammate aim a weak effort straight at the keeper.
Naismith sought to make up for his missed chance moments later as he showed good strength to barge a Georgian defender off the ball before releasing Fletcher down the insight left channel but the Sunderland striker`s shot was easily held by Loria.
Scotland`s striker`s torrid time in front of goal continued when Fletcher teed up Naismith for a shot with a clever back-heel but the Everton forward screwed his shot off target.
The hosts were very nearly made to paid for their wastefulness moments later when substitute Dzaria was afforded time and space for a shot inside the Scotland box but the Georgian fired just wide.
This seemed to be the wake-up call Scotland needed and only a brilliant save from Loria then denied Morrison Scotland`s second goal after Fletcher had set him up.