Ireland v Azerbaijan: Chiedozie Ogbene hits his first goal in World Cup qualifier

Callum Robinson had given Stephen Kenny's side a two-goal lead in the first half
Ireland v Azerbaijan: Chiedozie Ogbene hits his first goal in World Cup qualifier

Ireland's Chiedozie Ogbene and Anton Krivotsyuk of Azerbaijan. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

CORK attacker Chiedozie Ogbene hit the third goal as Ireland got a badly-needed competitive win under Stephen Kenny by beating Azerbaijan in Saturday's World Cup qualifier.

The former Cork City ace struck off the bench but Callum Robinson was the key figure in the first half, striking twice.

Robinson was given the opportunity to do his talking on the pitch when he was named in the Republic of Ireland's starting line-up. The West Brom striker found himself under the spotlight during the run-up to the game after revealing he had not been vaccinated against Covid-19 despite twice contracting the virus, but he was included by manager Stephen Kenny in one of two changes to the side who drew 1-1 with Serbia last month.

Robinson and Daryl Horgan came in for the suspended Alan Browne and Jamie McGrath, who was named among the substitutes, while 19-year-old Norwich defender Andrew Omobamidele retained his place, as did club-mate Adam Idah following his recovery from illness.

Ireland's Adam Idah and Gara Garayev of Azerbaijan. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Ireland's Adam Idah and Gara Garayev of Azerbaijan. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Azerbaijan boss Gianni De Biasi made three changes to the team who started the 3-0 home defeat by Portugal last time out with Maksim Medvedev, Anton Krivotsyuk and Tural Bayramov getting the nod over Elvin Badalov, Azer Salahli and Tamkin Khalilzade.

Robinson made his mark with just seven minutes gone when wing-back James McClean played the ball into his path and he steadied himself before drilling a left-foot shot high to keeper Shakhrudin Magomedaliyev's right and into the top corner to give the visitors the perfect start.

Striker Filip Ozobic forced a 24th-minute save from Gavin Bazunu as Azerbaijan produced a concerted response, but Robinson might have doubled his tally with a 31st-minute volley which flew just over.

However, he did make it 2-0 with six minutes of the half remaining when his right-footed shot flicked defender Hojjat Haghverdi and flew past Magomedaliyev and inside the far post.

Ireland's Callum Robinson celebrates scoring his second goal with John Egan. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Ireland's Callum Robinson celebrates scoring his second goal with John Egan. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Kenny's players left the pitch at half-time with a priceless two-goal lead, but knowing their job was far from done.

Matt Doherty suffered an anxious moment when Norwegian referee Espen Eskas was asked by the VAR team to take a look at his challenge on Mahir Emreli, who appeared to be tugging at the defender's shirt, but the official opted not to award a penalty with 19 minutes remaining.

Substitute Chiedozie Ogbene eased the visitors further ahead in the final minute of normal time with a firm header from Josh Cullen's right-wing corner.

It proved a case of 13th time lucky for Ireland as they saw the game out to hand Kenny a first competitive win.

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