27.05.2004 at 19:30 Lansdowne Road
Republic of Ireland
1 - 0
Referee: Jaroslav Jarr (Czech Republic)
Martin Rowlands -> Alan Maybury (77)
Stelea for Lobont,46
Neagra for Danciulescu,61
Marin for Dica, 78
Alexa for Dancia,78
Constantin for Radoi, 81
Daniel Niculae for Ganea,87
Barcauan for Lencsi, 91
Ovidiu Petre for Soava,92
Rep of Ireland 1 Romania 0
Statto: 50th Cap for Robbie Keane
It was all about Roy Keane’s return, but another Corkman stole the show.Liam Miller was one of the Irish players never to play with Keane in a competitive match before, but he rose to the occasion.
The midfielder, who will be playing alongside Keane at Old Trafford next season, captured the man of the match award, as well as being one of the new breed that caught the eye as Ireland’s unbeaten record continues.
A knee operation this week will keep him out of action for over a month, but he hopes to make his Manchester United debut at some stage of their American tour. If he looks as comfortable in a red shirt as he did last night wearing green, Alex Ferguson looks like having made an astute purchase prising Miller from Celtic.
“It was great to play from the start,” says Miller, who combined excellently with Andy Reid all night.
“The whole team played well, it was great to play with Roy, great to have him back in the side and I think we deserved the win.”
Although the technique of the Romanians allowed them to keep the ball in the second-half, Ireland impressed throughout with the skill of Miller one of the shining lights.
“Romania did keep possession well in the second-half, especially around defence, and that made it hard for us. But we kept possession well too, when we got it. And I think I can only learn from playing with a player like Roy, you always enjoy playing with a player that talented.”
Clinton Morrison was happy the crowd didn’t jeer the prodigal son. “It is great to have Roy back, players like myself who are always looking to improve their game, all the young players in the squad, they can only benefit from Roy’s presence.
“He is a class act, he has proven that so often, and I was pleased with the way the crowd reacted to him,” the Birmingham City striker said. This game was another development of his blossoming partnership with Robbie Keane.
“Yeah, we worked well out there with each other, I created a few chances for him, we linked better than we have before.
“I think with each game we play together, our partnership is improving and I don’t just think that, Brian thinks that and so does Robbie.
“I enjoy playing with Robbie, he is a good talent,” he said.
It was Keane’s 50th appearance in an Irish shirt and although he didn’t mark it with a goal, it was a quietly efficient performance from the striker, who remains two goals behind Niall Quinn in the goal-scoring record books.
“It was one of those nights, but we did create a lot of chances and I think Mattie’s goal that won it, that was a great goal, it was well created. It was just good to get another win under the belt, it is good for the confidence of the team.”
While Keane seemed destined not to score, it wasn’t for any lack of creation. Both Miller and Reid look prospects with real attacking promise, and both created a few chances for the front two, a fact not lost on Andy Reid.
“We created quite a lot as a team, and on another night, we might have won 2 or 3-0. They just didn’t go in for us. But, this was a good display by everyone.
“Roy coming back has given everyone a lift, because you want to play with quality players and Roy is certainly one of them.”
Shay Given has just kept his fourth clean sheet in five games for Ireland. Although he won’t be in London, where both Nic Colgan and Paddy Kenny are expected to get opportunities, he was another pleased with how the team performed.
“It was a very positive performance, I was happy with the unity of the performance that the team showed and I was pleased with how the crowd reacted to Roy. There has been a lot of hype about his return, hopefully it will die down now that he has played a game.”
Given smiled when somebody mentions the recent record of shut-outs. “It is nice to have, but most of the credit for that has to go to the lads in front of me.
“I don’t think I had a save to make all night. The two lads in front of me, nothing went past them all night, they never looked in trouble.”
Especially Given’s team-mate Andy O’Brien, man of the match in the eyes of some people. Finally, Ireland seem to have discovered a commanding centre-half to partner Kenny Cunningham.
Mercifully, that's out of the way. Now there's only 99 days to the reason Roy Keane returned the road to the next World Cup.However fraught that journey may become, it won't be littered with the lingering lenses that the Manchester United skipper had to negotiate last night at Lansdowne Road.
Romania may no longer be the Ceaucescu outpost of yore, but its football team isn't such a draw that they can attract more than 40,000 fans and a gaggle of cameramen to Dublin for an end-of-season international. Only Roy Keane can do that.
"People haven't forgotten the contribution Roy has made to Irish football, so the reception he received was justified.
"He could have been man of the match. He set the tone for the game, alongside Mattie Holland," said manager Brian Kerr.
It was the 59th occasion Keane had pulled on his country's shirt and if the surreal was provided by one Corkman, the sensational was on offer from another Leesider, man-of-the-match Liam Miller.
Kenny Cunningham retained the captain's armband, but 42,000 necks craned for the arrival of Ireland's lost leader onto the pitch. A sprinkling of jeers quickly gave way to cheers.
Within eight minutes, he had bulldozed his way through to create Ireland's first chance. In the second period he almost supplied the definitive Roy of the Rovers headline, but perhaps a goal was asking too much.
Virtually lost in the haze was another Irish victory, as Brian Kerr's men stretched their run to one defeat in 15 games.
Keane's midfield partner Holland volleyed the winner in the last five minutes.
"I've always said with Roy in the side we have a better chance and that's what we're here for, we want to qualify for the big tournaments," said Holland.
The 32-year-old Man Utd captain's last appearance for his country came in a friendly at home to Nigeria two years ago, before Saipan and its momentous fallout.
Last night's match was also a landmark occasion for the other Keane in the squad Tottenham striker Robbie, who made his 50th international appearance.