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Robbie Keane was full of praise for fellow goalscorer Keith Andrews after the Republic of Ireland all but assured their place at UEFA EURO 2012 with a 4-0 triumph against Estonia in Tallinn.
Andrews, who provided the platform for victory with a 13th-minute opener, gave a dynamic midfield display throughout. Ireland extended their advantage through Jon Walters midway through the second half after Andrei Stepanov had been dismissed. Once Keane had scored the first of two goals the hosts began to unravel, captain Raio Piiroja also receiving his marching orders, before the LA Galaxy forward's late penalty made it 4-0.
"It should be over now the way we've performed here tonight," Keane told UEFA.com, "but we can't take anything for granted. If we don't qualify now we'll be devastated. Andrews was superb from the start of qualifying and today he drove us on from the middle of the park.
"Full credit to all of the players, though, because to come here and win 4-0 is a great result. There was a calmness in the camp leading up to the game and that was to do with the confidence in the squad and the way we've played in the whole campaign."
If Ireland were confident of victory they certainly cannot have been expecting such a comprehensive winning margin, as Andrews was quick to admit. "It hasn't sunk in yet because it's hard to believe we've come here and won 4-0," he said. "We thought we could get at their back four but to get four goals away from home and keep a clean sheet is a fantastic result.
"We knew that silencing the crowd early was going to be important. It was vital to push on and take full advantage. The country's been waiting a long time for a European Championship and in the last few years this group of players worked really hard to achieve it."
Should the victory pave the way for Ireland's attendance at UEFA EURO 2012 it will go some way to making up for the heartache of their 2010 FIFA World Cup play-off defeat by France. Furthermore, should they continue to combine goals with a defensive record that boasts just one goal conceded in ten games, they will be a match for anyone next summer.
For Estonia, meanwhile, the crushing home loss was difficult for Piiroja to describe. "It's very hard to explain our feelings at the moment as we had high expectations," said the 32-year-old. "We were unlucky and they were better than us – that's it. It's very hard to play against a good team with only nine players. We would like to win in Dublin or to get a decent result, but's it over now for us anyway. The fairytale is over."
The Estonia captain's sentiments were echoed by midfielder Martin Vunk: "We were too scared to play football at the start. We started to play after the first goal, but the red card ruined our game. We created a couple of chances, but didn't score. It was a disaster in the second half as we let them score three more goals. There is nothing to lose in the second match, so we will just go and play."
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