Scotland and the Republic of Ireland are tied at the top of the Nations Cup table following the opening round of fixtures in the four-team tournament at the Dublin Arena, venue for May's UEFA Europa League final.
In the inaugural edition's opening game on Tuesday, hosts Ireland prevailed 3-0 against Wales courtesy of second-half goals from Darron Gibson – his first for his country – Damien Duff and Keith Fahey. Scotland promptly drew level on Wednesday night by beating Northern Ireland via the same scoreline, as captain Kenny Miller, James McArthur and Kris Commons all hit the target.
Miller, who has registered two in three games following a January move to Bursaspor, found the net again on 19 minutes in Dublin, rifling in from close range after Charlie Adam's corner had caused confusion in the Northern Ireland defence. McArthur doubled Craig Levein's side's lead just after the half-hour with a cross-cum-shot, before Commons put the result beyond doubt seven minutes into the second half, applying a simple finish after patient build-up play.
Giovanni Trapattoni's Ireland had set the bar on Tuesday, condemning Gary Speed to defeat in his opening game at the Wales helm. The visitors were initially undone by a well-placed drive from Manchester United FC's Gibson on the hour.
Duff soon doubled their advantage, slotting past Wayne Hennessey after good work from Jonathan Walters to register his first international goal since March 2006. Fahey's free-kick seven minutes from time completed the scoring.
The Nations Cup is played on a league basis, with Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland meeting in the next game on 23 May. Wales and Scotland will play the following day before the conclusion of the tournament on 26 and 27 May, when the current top two will lock horns in the final fixture.
All but Scotland – who visit the Czech Republic in September – resume their UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying campaigns on 25/26 March.
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