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Republic of Ireland’s Robbie Keane hits hat-trick against abject Gibraltar In the grand scheme of things, this demolition means very little apart from providing further proof that the Euro 2016 qualifiers are worse off for including teams such as Gibraltar. After 14 minutes the result was a foregone conclusion. By the hour mark it made for some very uncomfortable viewing. The chances of the Republic of Ireland achieving a result in Germany on Tuesday remains improbable, even if their biggest win since defeating Malta 8-0 in 1983 will instil plenty of confidence before the most daunting of fixtures. It is difficult to understate how out of their depth Gibraltar were. Allen Bula’s team were a mess and they face not only a succession of hammerings in this campaign but a long road until they become anything more than perpetual whipping boys. Then again, what should one expect from a team made up mostly of players from a domestic league where every single fixture is played on the rock’s one artificial pitch? Martin O’Neill had asked for patience from the Republic in the lead-up to the game but the opening goal arrived inside six minutes and from there it spiralled. “I’m delighted,” O’Neill said. “We got off to a great start and effectively the game was won in 16 minutes.” By that stage Robbie Keane had a hat-trick and Wes Hoolahan was running riot. The first arrived when Hoolahan played an exquisite pass to Aiden ­McGeady with the outside of his left boot and the Everton winger cut back the ball across goal to Keane, who slotted home from eight yards. Eight minutes later Hoolahan sent through another delightful ball to Keane and, with Gibraltar’s goalkeeper Jordan Perez rushing off his line, the home side’s captain rolled the ball into an empty net for his second. Hoolahan also won the penalty that confirmed Keane’s third international hat-trick in the 18th minute, the LA Galaxy striker sending Perez the wrong way to score a record 21st goal in European qualifiers. Soon after, a Mexican wave began making its way around the stadium and the Irish domination showed no signs of abating. Within 30 seconds of the restart they had a fourth as Keane turned provider, playing in the unmarked James McClean. Perez’s positioning was abysmal and McClean may never score an easier goal, hitting a gaping net from the six-yard line. The fifth arrived in bizarre fashion as Perez saved from Keane, Hoolahan’s rebound was blocked only for the ball to strike the unfortunate goalkeeper, who redirected it into his own net via the crossbar. McClean then made it six in the 53rd minute after the goalkeeper failed to smother a tame effort, allowing the Wigan player to poke home, before Hoolahan managed a goal of his own to wrap up the scoring with 34 minutes still to play. He followed a neat dribble from the left with a carefully dispatched finish into the right corner. “The period just after half-time was terrific,” O’Neill added. “We had a lot of momentum – but it wasn’t until that point that Tuesday’s game entered my head – and we now have plenty of confidence getting on the plane.” Perez’s already awful evening plumbed new depths when he had the indignity of being taken off after an hour – just before his opposite number, David Forde, was finally called into action to deny a Joseph Chipolina header. It was hard not to afford Perez some sympathy. He applauded the home fans on his way off, who reciprocated with a standing ovation. Bula was spiky when asked why he had made the change. “The same reason as any substitution,” he said. “A keeper is a player on the field, if I have to take him off, I have to take him off. If we’re developing a nation, why not? We don’t have 100,000 players to pick from and I need to rotate my keepers. Period. That is all.” The remainder of the game was played out at friendly pace; the Republic hogging possession but failing to inflict any further damage on their deflated visitors. O’Neill’s team will still head to Gelsenkirchen hopeful rather than expectant but the thought of how Gibraltar will fare against the world champions next month is a bleak one.


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