Oct 9, 2016 at 7.45pm UK
Moldova
1-3
Rep. IrelandRepublic of Ireland
Bugaev (45')
Cojocari (80'), Bugaev (88'), Gatcan (90')
FT(HT: 1-1)
Long (3'), McClean (68', 76')
Coleman (49'), Walters (90')

Result: James McClean brace spares Ireland blushes

Result: McClean brace spares Ireland blushes
© AFP
A second-half brace from James McClean sees Republic of Ireland rescue a 3-1 victory over minnows Moldova in World Cup qualifying Group D.

Republic of Ireland needed a second-half brace from James McClean to see them past minnows Moldova during their World Cup qualifier in Chisinau this evening.

Shane Long had given the visitors an early lead, but the team ranked 161st in the world levelled things up through Igor Bugaev before McClean spared Ireland's blushes.

It took less than two minutes for Martin O'Neill's side to take the lead as Long ended a 17-match goal drought for club and country, latching on to Wes Hoolahan's through-ball before keeping his composure to pick out the bottom corner.

The visitors were very much on the front foot during the opening stages, but failed to add to their lead despite further chances for McClean and Long.

The openings soon began to dry up, though, and Moldova's rearguard action looked to have worked when they equalised right on the stroke of half time. Ireland were caught high up the pitch as Bugaev raced through on goal before finishing with aplomb to open his side's qualifying account.

The hosts started the second half brightly too, but Ireland soon regained the upper hand and McClean and Hoolahan both had sights of goal in quick succession inside the opening 10 minutes of the half.

It wasn't until the 69th minute that they regained the lead, though, and this time McClean made no mistake when picking out the bottom corner after Jonathan Walters had somewhat fortuitously guided the ball into his path.

Any worries that Moldova - who have now lost seven matches in a row - may respond again were appeased seven minutes later when McClean doubled his personal tally for the night, this time steering Seamus Coleman's low cross home to give his side a valuable cushion.

That proved to be enough for Ireland to take all three points from the first ever meeting between the two sides, moving above fellow home nation Wales in the Group D standings.

O'Neill's side are now joint top along with Serbia on seven points, while Moldova remain on zero and have now won just one of their last 23 matches.

Robbie Brady celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Euro 2016 RO16 match between France and Republic of Ireland on June 26, 2016
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