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Gibraltar 0-4 Ireland: Visitors win to spare Kenny further torment
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Damian Spellman, PA, Faro
Press Association
Republic of Ireland’s Callum Robinson celebrates rounding off the scoring with the fourth goal (Zac Goodwin/PA).
Republic of Ireland’s Callum Robinson celebrates rounding off the scoring with the fourth goal (Zac Goodwin/PA).

Under-fire manager Stephen Kenny was spared further punishment as the Republic of Ireland eased to a 4-0 Euro 2024 qualifying victory over Gibraltar.

Brighton teenager Evan Ferguson fired the visitors into an eighth-minute lead at the Estadio Algarve with his third senior international goal before Celtic winger Mikey Johnston, Wolves defender Matt Doherty and substitute Callum Robinson struck to wrap up just a second win of the Group B campaign.

Kenny had gone into the game insisting he would remain in charge until a review of his reign has been carried out after November’s fixtures, although a poor result here would only have increased the clamour for change.

In the event, Ireland negotiated a game they should have won comfortably with the minimum of fuss to complete a double over the minnows ahead of next month’s trip to the Netherlands.

Once again, there will be only pride at stake in Amsterdam, with hopes of automatic qualification having been extinguished by Friday night’s 2-0 home defeat by Greece, and even the possibility of a play-off place looks ever more faint by the day.

The games against Gibraltar, who have now played 44 European Championship and World Cup qualifiers and not collected a single point, were never going to be the yardstick for the Football Association of Ireland’s review and, while embarrassment was avoided with ease, difficult questions remain for a manager whose 28 competitive fixtures have yielded just six wins.

Kenny, who once again deployed a back four rather than his usual three, handed Johnston a first senior international start in the search for much-needed creativity.

However, it was from the opposite flank that the visitors struck first when Chiedozie Ogbene rolled a pass into the overlapping Doherty’s run and the unmarked Ferguson steered his eighth-minute cross past helpless goalkeeper Dayle Coleing.

Luton striker Ogbene continued to look Ireland’s most potent weapon from wide on the right and, with Josh Cullen probing from central midfield, they dominated possession without creating clear-cut openings.

They might have extended their lead when Ryan Manning’s 24th-minute corner was allowed to travel across the six-yard-box untouched, but Shane Duffy was unable to stab it home beyond the far post.

Coleing was forced to palm away Johnston’s swerving attempt after he had skipped past Tjay de Barr and Liam Walker seconds later.

The Celtic man did get his name on the scoresheet with 29 minutes gone when Doherty accepted another Ogbene pass in the space between defenders Jayce Olivero and John Sergeant and crossed for the winger to slide in and, after his initial attempt had come back off a post, bundle the rebound across the line.

Coleing had to race from his line to prevent Johnston from reaching Jamie McGrath’s defence-splitting pass seven minutes before the break and then blocked Ferguson’s stabbed effort after Johnston had pulled the ball back.

Walker mustered Gibraltar’s first effort in stoppage time after De Barr robbed Johnston and ran into space down the right, but the midfielder’s attempt flew harmlessly wide.

Coleing plucked McGrath’s header out of the night sky after he had connected with Ogbene’s cross and then blocked Jason Knight’s firm drive, but he was a relieved man when Duffy’s volley from a Johnston corner flew just wide in a flurry of activity at the start of the second half.

Knight sent a diving header wide from Johnston’s 51st-minute cross with the Gibraltar defence at sixes and sevens and Ferguson was unable to hit the target with a free-kick from 25 yards as the Republic looked to kill off the game.

Johnston saw a shot deflected wide on the hour but then delivered a corner which was cleverly flicked on by McGrath for Doherty to head past the keeper from point-blank range.

Substitute Robinson completed the job with an 80th-minute header to match the 4-0 scoreline when the sides last met in Faro in 2015.


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