Ireland come from behind to win World Cup qualifier

February 12th, 2009 - 1:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Hamburg, Feb 12 (DPA) Ireland were helped by a dubious penalty to come from behind to beat Georgia 2-1 in a European World Cup Group 8 qualifier played in Dublin.
In other European qualifiers played Wednesday night, Northern Ireland moved into second place in Group 3 with a 3-0 victory in San Marino, while Albania played to a goalless draw in Malta.

In Croke Park, Alexander Iashvili gave Georgia the lead after just 46 seconds when Irish defender Stephen Kelly failed to stop the Karlsruhe striker from getting to the ball five metres from the goal-line.

Keith Andrews thought he had given the home side an equaliser midway through the first half, but Finnish referee Jouni Hyytia ruled that an Irish player had impeded goalkeeper Giorgi Lomaia from an offside position.

In the second half he denied Georgia a second goal when he said that Iashvili was offside when he bounced on a ball that rebounded from the post.

Hyytia gifted the home side a goal in the 73rd minute when he ruled that a Georgian defender had handled the ball in the area, even though his assistant had his flag up for offside.

Hyytia waved all Georgian protestations away and captain Robbie Keane made no mistake from the spot.

The Tottenham striker gave Ireland a second just five minutes later to move the Irish to second place in the group on 10 points, equal to Italy and keep their dream of qualifying for the finals in 2010 in South Africa alive.

Keane said that the match had been difficult after the side had gone a goal behind.

“We started off very sloppy and it is not easy to come back after giving a goal away. You are always chasing a goal. But overall I think we deserved to win the game. What was most important is to get the three points.

“At half time the coach told us to just keep going. We were desperate to get the first goal because we knew that we would score a second thereafter,” said Keane.

Irish coach Giovanni Trapattoni admitted that his side had been lucky to have been awarded a penalty. “We deserved the win, but I know that we were a bit lucky with the penalty.

“I have to congratulate my players on the victory. They showed great character. Our players gave it their everything and with that attitude and mentality we can go far. I will not say that we will qualify for South Africa, but we can go far.”

In Serravalle, Gareth McAuley gave Northern Ireland an ideal start with the opener in the sixth minute. Grant McCann scored a second for his side in the 32nd minute, before Chris Brunt found a third for the visitors midway through the second half.

San Marino were reduced to ten men in the 70th minute after Manuel Marani had been sent off for receiving a second yellow card, just four minutes after having been booked for the first time.

Northern Ireland are now second with seven points from five games in Group 3, two points behind Slovakia.

The goalless draw in Group 1 between Albania and Malta saw Malta remain rooted to the bottom of the group, with Albania just one place better.

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