Tim Cahill was again the hero for Australia as the Socceroos claimed a convincing 3-0 win over the Republic of Ireland in Limerick.
Republic of Ireland: 0
Australia were the first team to settle in the opening ten minutes and came closest to scoring when Harry Kewell hit a long free-kick low into the bottom corner but Republic of Ireland’s goalkeeper Shay Given was on hand to hang on to the ball.
The home side began to respond to Australia’s solid start with Aiden McGeady causing problems out wide on the left but their advances almost came unstuck in the 21stminute when Australian central defender Patrick Kisnorbo guided a header to Given’s bottom corner but to no avail as the Manchester City shot-stopper again was in the way.
Moments later it was Ireland’s turn with captain Robbie Keane turning in the box and whipping a free left-foot shot towards goal but Mark Schwarzer, as always, held his nerve and conjured a brilliant save.
Ireland were beginning to press forward after their sluggish beginning with Celtic’s McGeady continuing to provide a headache for the Australian defenders.
In the 38th minute, the Australian defence cleared to Tim Cahill in the centre of midfield.
The Everton midfielder took a searching run before playing the ball through to Scott McDonald, who turned outside the area and knocked it back into the path of Cahill who struck with his left boot, beating Given with a well-directed shot, opening the scoring for the match.
Six minutes later, young Middlesbrough defender Rhys Williams worked his way into the area for the visitors and hit a nice shot into the gloves of Given but it was Cahill again who was front and centre and managed to hit a reaction shot, again on his left foot, into the back of the net, doubling Australia’s advantage just prior to half-time.
At half-time, both managers made some changes with Australia’s Pim Verbeek bringing on Nikita Rukavytsya for his senior international debut, Brett Holman and Adrian Madaschi for McDonald, Kisnorbo and goal scorer Cahill whilst Ireland’s Giovanni Trapattoni gave a chance to winger Stephen Hunt (for Damien Duff) and Caleb Folan.
The Irish seemed to be disorganised in the first ten minutes of the second term with the new-look Australian forwards finding space and creating problems.
Stephen Hunt gave the home side some grunt and dash in midfield and became creative on the hour-mark making a run into the box but his rushed shot from Keane’s back heel went wide.
Trapattoni made a double change in the 63rd minute, bringing on Keith Andrews and Eddie Nolan for Darron Gibson and Kevin Kilbane.
24-year old Coventry City goalkeeper Keiren Westwood was given his second Republic of Ireland cap when he replaced Given in the 68th minute and it immediately kicked his teammates into gear as Keane again turned in the box with limited space, swivelled and shot but it rocketed into David Carney who had positioned himself perfectly.
Ireland were trying desperately to get themselves back in the game with Hunt proving to be a pivotal player but most of their attempts were being thwarted as Australia’s Mark Bresciano made way for Nicky Carle in the 78th minute.
McGeady substituted for Reading’s Shane Long inside the final ten minutes.
Ireland were peppering the goals in the final minutes and came close when Blackburn Rovers midfielder Andrews shot from outside the area but was kept out by the upright as Australia's Mile Jedinak made way for James Holland.
Moments later, Sean St Ledger was on the end of a cross put could only direct his open header into the hands of Schwarzer, summing up the home side’s performance.
To make things worse for Ireland, David Carney scored an absolute screamer from way outside the area in injury time to make it 3-0 to give Australia a first ever win over Ireland and their performance holds them in good stead for upcoming internationals.