Finland 0-3 Republic of Ireland
The Republic of Ireland carried on from where they left off at the FIFA World Cup tonight with a comfortable international friendly victory against Finland in Helsinki.
World Cup form
Ireland showed the form that took them to the second round in Korea/Japan - where they lost on penalties to Spain - as Leeds United AFC striker Robbie Keane, Celtic FC's Colin Healy and Graham Barrett of Arsenal FC reserves were on target.
New boy impresses
Ireland coach Mick McCarthy handed Sunderland FC's Thomas Butler a debut in midfield, his inclusion coming at the expense of Matt Holland. Drafted in from the Under-21 squad in midweek, Butler wasted no time in making an impact, cutting in from the left and curling an effort centimetres wide. After giving his side the lead Keane could have had a second when a wayward Petri Pasanen pass towards his own goalkeeper fell invitingly in his path, but he failed to finish from an acute angle.
Finland's most impressive performer was Liverpool FC striker Jari Litmanen, whose chipped pass into the visitors' area almost released Teemu Tainio, before a wicked curling shot from the corner of the area gave goalkeeper Dean Kiely his hardest save of the opening half.
Finland enjoyed more possession after the break but it was the Irish - Keane in particular - who continued to carve out the chances. Healy showed good awareness to find the striker with a pull-back after breaking into the penalty area but Jussi Jaaskelainen saved low to his right. The goalkeeper did even better shortly afterwards when Keane shot again and he managed to block the strike with his chest.
Litmanen was still a source of danger and after creating space on the edge of the area, curled another shot just wide with Kiely beaten. Then he clipped the top of the bar, although Kiely was in control of the situation.
Healy makes sure
However, Healy ensured there was no way back for Finland when he slammed home Rory Delap's nod back from Stephen McPhail's far post cross. Barrett added a third as Finland lost heart.
Ireland face Albania, Georgia, Russia and Switzerland in Group 10 in the EURO 2004™ qualifiers while Finland are drawn in Group 9 alongside Azerbaijan, Italy, Wales and Yugoslavia.
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