Nations’ Cup: Ireland ruin Gary Speed’s Wales debut
Second-half strikes from Darren Gibson, Damien Duff & Keith Fahey help the Republic of Ireland to victory
Gary Speed’s first match as Wales boss ended in disappointment as the Republic of Ireland cruised to a 3-0 Nations’ Cup win in Dublin.
A scintillating second-half strike from Darren Gibson and Damien Duff’s eighth international goal put Giovanni Trapattoni’s men in control before Keith Fahey’s late free-kick rounded off a comprehensive victory.
The atmosphere at the opening game of the inaugural Carling Nations Cup was eerily muted and the Aviva Stadium crowd’s placid mood transferred onto the pitch below as proceedings got under way at a lethargic pace.
First half chances were few and far between. Duff grazed the post when his cross was blown goalwards by a swirling wind and Wolves forward Kevin Doyle almost scored his second in a week when his marauding run off the left wing resulted in a shot which tested Wayne Hennessey in the Wales goal.
Seamus Coleman produced a solid display on his Republic of Ireland debut and created an opening for fellow youth-team graduate Ciaran Clarke, who narrowly headed the Everton full-back’s free-kick past Hennessey’s post.
Both repaid the faith shown by Trapattoni with solid performances after the Italian manager finally decided to release two of the most exciting prospects in Irish football.
The home side were dominant after the break and Duff in particular showed great invention on the left as he persistently looked to exploit the Wales rearguard.
The Fulham winger found Shane Long in space early in the second half but the Reading striker blasted his effort over the crossbar.
And moments later Duff found himself through on goal but failed to place his shot either side of Hennessey’s towering frame.
It took a sublime long-range strike from Gibson to undo the Welsh defence on the hour-mark, with the Manchester United midfielder unleashing an unstoppable strike past Hennessey to light up an otherwise dull encounter.
The opener propelled Trapattoni’s side towards maximum points as his Ireland team sensed an opportunity to clinch their first victory in four matches.
Jon Walters created the home side’s second after the tireless forward seized upon sloppy defending from Chris Gunter and sent a teasing ball across the Welsh penalty area.
An intelligent dummy from Shane Long let the ball to trickle through to Duff who duly slotted past Hennessey.
Fahey, who was called up to the Irish squad as an emergency replacement for the injured Keith Treacy, then secured the win with his late free-kick when he slotted his effort past the Wales wall and Hennessey seven minutes from time.