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Ireland finally claim Nations League win as goal rush sinks Scotland

Ireland 3 Scotland 0


Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny (centre) celebrates after Troy Parrott's goal. Niall Carson/PA Wire.

Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny (centre) celebrates after Troy Parrott's goal. Niall Carson/PA Wire.

Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny (centre) celebrates after Troy Parrott's goal. Niall Carson/PA Wire.

That was more like it. At last an Irish football team that had sleepwalked its way through its first two Nations League matches of 2022 came alive.

They dispatched a poor Scottish outfit with a handsome win at the Aviva Stadium that frankly could have been by more than three goals.

In doing so, they saved their manager Stephen Kenny from a long summer of questions about where this team is going. But maybe Kenny did himself a favour by getting the right players on the pitch.

Michael Obafemi has been the form Irish forward in English football for the last four months.

This time he started and laid into Scotland with a vengeance that suggested nobody is taking a starting place off him any time soon.

Obafemi’s Man of the Match effort was topped off by a second-half goal that will surely win Ireland’s Goal of the Year come Christmas.

If it doesn’t, there’s one hell of a goal out there still to be scored.

Mind you, Ireland’s second strike last night, created by Obafemi and finished by Troy Parrott, was a thing of beauty too.

It was that sort of night for an Irish team that found its feet at last.

Scotland looked like a collection of players who wished they were already on the beach.

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Now they face a long journey to Armenia for next Tuesday’s Nations League game.

Ireland will travel to Lodz in Poland in a very different mood, but they will do it without Shane Duffy, who was booked stopping a rare Scottish attack and is now suspended.

Kenny sprang a pre-match surprise with John Egan named in the team after indicating on Friday that the Sheffield United man would miss the match through injury. He also gave Obafemi a first start and recalled Parrott.

Jayson Molumby was brought into the midfield too as Kenny desperately looked for the spark that would fire his team into life.

Alan Browne started in the right wing-back role as Ireland got off to a bright start, seeking to create openings, the best one of which was wasted by James McClean with a poor cross.

Ireland’s 20th minute breakthrough arrived via the most reliable of sources, the Duffy forehead.

McClean delivered a fine corner to the back post, big Shane headed the ball back across goal and in a jungle of legs and chests trying to get to the ball, Browne’s touch was the decisive one. You had to wonder had Scotland got their homework done for this match.

That was one of three occasions in the first half where Duffy got a free header in the Scottish penalty area from an Irish set-piece.

Ireland almost gave the goal straight back to Scotland, but Duffy’s misplaced pass out from the back was not converted into a goal by John McGinn. It should have been.

The price for that miss was to multiply times 30 seconds later.

Obafemi dinked a beautiful ball over the Scottish defence and Parrott timed his run to perfection to head the ball into the net.

Two things about the goal, Parrott stayed onside until the pass was played, unlike Ireland’s strikers last Wednesday against Ukraine, who almost walked into an offside trap time and again.

And Obafemi’s delicate touch was the class pass Ireland’s supporters have been screaming for, praying for, hoping for, through the last two games of tedium.

At last we saw a player in green bring something different to Ireland’s repertoire in attack.

That it was a striker in Obafemi who did it should not bother anyone.

At last it was a pass from an Irish footballer that cut an international defence in two.

It’s what has been missing for match after match with Ireland of late.

Now the question was could the team complete the job and secure their first home competitive win since facing Gibraltar in 2019?

Oh yes, they could. Chelsea starlet Billy Gilmour came in at half-time for the visitors as Steve Clarke sought to change things up.

But he would not have bargained for going three goals behind within five minutes of the restart.

But that’s what happened as Obamfemi belted home a cracker from 25 yards. After 12 goals in the second half of the season with Swansea, Obafemi is on fire.

He hobbled off a few minutes after scoring, and Kenny will be hoping Obafemi can play against Ukraine, when Ireland will surely need a goal or two.

Ireland were denied a fourth when Scott Hogan, on for Obafemi, had a header that seemed to have crossed the goal-line, but was scooped off it by Grant Hanley.

VAR confirmed the centre-half had done brilliantly to stop all the ball crossing the line.

That was the last of the excitement for a crowd of over 46,000 in Dublin Four.

Ireland played out time with a couple of late scares at the back. But the show was back on the road as Ireland’s footballers at last played with a bit of elan and flair and style.

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