Signs of life from Keane sink Macedonia

Two first-half goals by Robbie Keane gave visiting Ireland a 2-0 victory over Macedonia and maintained a three-way tie atop Group B in European Championship qualifying on Saturday.

Ireland shares first place with Russia and Slovakia after six games. Macedonia is in fifth place, nine points behind, ahead only of pointless Andorra.

Keane, who missed a good chance just seconds into the game, opened the scoring in the 8th minute when he took a pass from Keith Andrews and hit a powerful shot from 25 meters (yards). The ball was deflected off defender Nikolce Novevski and wrongfooted goalkeeper Martin Bogatinov.

Keane scored again in the 37th when he pounced on a back pass to put the ball past Bogatinov.

Macedonia nearly pulled a goal back four minutes later when John O’Shea brought down striker Goran Pandev in the area, but Ivan Trickovski’s penalty kick hit the crossbar.

Macedonia tried to get back in the game in the second spell but almost exclusively relied on long-range efforts that threatened Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given only once, in the 68th.

Ireland hosts Slovakia on Sept. 2 before traveling to Russia for a Sept. 6 clash.


Macedonia: Martin Bogatinov, Boban Grncarov, Goran Popov, Nikolce Noveski, Vance Sikov, Ivan Trickovski, Velice Sumulikoski, Muhamed Demiri (Dusan Savik, 71), Goran Pandev, Ilco Naumoski (Feran Hasani, 10), Filip Despotovski (Mario Gjurovski, 57).

Ireland: Shay Given, Stephen Kelly, Kevin Kilbane, John O’Shea, Darren O’Dea, Glenn Whelan, Aiden McGeady, Keith Andrews, Simon Cox (Shane Long, 64), Robbie Keane, Stephen Hunt.