Euro 2012 qual. - Ireland cruise to Andorra win

Fri, 07 Oct 21:47:00 2011

Republic of Ireland cruised to a comfortable 2-0 win in Andorra that leaves them in pole position for a Euro 2012 play-off place.

Ireland's players Kevin Doyle (R) and Keith Andrews celebrate a goal against Andorra during their Euro 2012 qualifying round Group B soccer match at Estadi Comunal in Andorra October 7, 2011 - 0

Kevin Doyle and an Ildefons Lima own goal killed off the tie within 20 minutes against the minnows, whose losing streak now extends to 34 consecutive matches. A point against Armenia at home on Tuesday will be enough to secure second spot from Group B.

However, a 1-0 win for Russia away to Slovakia means that unless the Russians lose to Andorra in the final match day of the group stages, automatic qualification for the tournament in Poland and Ukraine is out of Giovanni Trapattoni’s side’s reach.

Given Andorra’s status as joint-bottom in the FIFA world rankings, it seemed to be more a matter of when, not if, Ireland would break the deadlock. They almost did so inside the opening minute.

Though Robbie Keane looked odds on to add to his record tally for the Republic, it was Doyle who tested Josep Gomez after his strike partner’s endeavour to get into the danger zone.

Two minutes later, Keane saw a finish clip the crossbar after his initial strike was thwarted as the visitors bombarded their opponents in search of the breakthrough.

It only took another four minutes before the opener came, with Keane sending the first Irish corner of the game back across goal where Doyle converted from close range.

And the comfort of a two-goal cushion arrived after a Keith Andrews direct free-kick attempt was blocked by the encroaching Christian Martinez.

Martinez was booked and will miss his nation’s next game against Russia, but a heavier price was paid at the restart with Glenn Whelan this time slipping it short to McGeady, whose parried shot ricocheted off the captain and in.

Ireland took their foot off the pedal from there, feeling that nothing could possibly go wrong. Left-back Stephen Ward disproved that theory with just after half an hour played by attempting to win a needless penalty by dragging his leg over the prone frame of Alexandre Gutierrez.

The simulation earned him a booking and means he misses out on the crucial Armenia play-off decider next week.

Armenia, who have never played in the finals of a major championship, crushed 10-man Macedonia 4-1 in a Euro 2012 qualifier to keep alive their hopes of going through from Group B.

First-half goals by Brazilian-born Marcos Pizzelli and Henrik Mkhitaryan set the hosts up for a third consecutive victory which took them level on 17 points with leaders Russia who visit Slovakia later in the day.

Macedonia's misery was compounded when captain Velice Sumulikoski was sent off for a second booking in the 53rd minute.

Armenia wasted several chances after the interval before Gevorg Ghazaryan made it 3-0 midway through the second half.

Vance Sikov pulled one goal back for Macedonia with a late header before substitute Artur Sarkisov rounded keeper Martin Bogatinov to slot Armenia's fourth in added time.

Armenia, who have never qualified for a major championship since gaining independence after the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, probably need to win in Ireland in their last game on Tuesday to have a chance of making the finals.

The winners of Europe's nine qualifying groups and the best second-placed team gain automatic berths in the finals alongside joint hosts Poland and Ukraine while the other eight runners-up enter two-legged playoffs for the remaining four places.

Macedonia, coached by former Wales and Real Madrid boss John Toshack, remained second from bottom on seven points and have no chance of advancing.

Liam Happe / Reuters

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