Ireland maintained a 100% record in their Uefa U21 qualifiers last night as a pair of early goals killed off Andorra on their home patch.
Captain Tommie Hoban led the way at the Estadio Comunal by forcing a well-worked corner home after only 13 minutes before Josh Cullen capped his competitive debut at this level with the second eight minutes later.
Andorra, who had recorded their ever first U21 victory in June against Lithuania, ended a game they had no shots on target in with 10 men after Marc Ferre picked up his second yellow card just two minutes from full-time.
“It was a professional job by our players to beat a very well-organised Andorran side,” beamed Ireland boss Noel King afterwards.
“We had struggled to break them down in the home game in March, when we won 1-0, but that was a better all-round display.”
The Irish now face Lithuania home and away in October and November, sandwiched in between by a trip to meet top seeds, Italy.
Debut competitive starts for Cullen and Reece Crego-Cox provided more attacking flair to this Ireland side and they bossed the first half.
Their bright opening to the game led to a barrage of pressure, with Hoban netting from the third corner in quick succession.
When Cullen whipped in the delivery from the left, the Watford defender managed to lose his marker and steer the ball high into the top corner with his chest past Victor Silvererio.
Andorra barely had time to recover from that set-back when they conceded again.
West Ham United first-teamer Cullen showed excellent tenacity to latch onto a left-wing cross, skip around Max Llovera and find the roof of the net with a left-foot shot.
While Alan Browne fashioned a couple of openings to extend the lead, Ireland were fortunate that Jordi Alaez scuffed his shot from eight yards out which skewed wide.
Still, with Brown and Cullen dominating midfield, Ireland were much the better of the sides and were satisfied to complete a tricky assignment with just the two goals.
Andorra, as occurred in the return fixture, resorted to persistent fouling during the second half as the tie drifted away from them. Five of their players received bookings and talisman Ferre incurred his second in the closing stages to crown a bad day for the minnows.
V Silverio; J Rubio, M Rebes, M Llovera, C Bove; A Reyes, M Ferre; V Buneo, A Matos, J Alaez; A Sanchez.
R Nazzaro for Bueno (46 mins), G Fernandez For Matos (70 mins), A Vilagrasa for Reyes (82 mins)
D Rogers (Falkirk); B Lenihan (Hull City), T Hoban (Watford), D Lenihan (Blackburn Rovers), J Connors (Dagenham); A Browne (Preston NE), G Rea (Southend Utd); R Crego-Cox (QPR), J Cullen (West Ham Utd), S Kavanagh (Fulham); C O’Dowda (Oxford Utd).
S Maguire (Dundalk) for Cox, D Connolly (Ipswich Town) for O’Dowda (both 85 mins), S Long (Reading) for Rea (87).
Irfan Peljto (BHZ)
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