Robbie Keane may have been thwarted at the final hurdle before the 2010 World Cup, but the LA Galaxy striker and his Republic of Ireland team now have one foot firmly in the 2012 European Championship.
Behind a brace and an assist from their captain, Ireland throttled Joel Lindpere and nine-man Estonia 4-0 on Friday in the first leg of their playoff series in Tallinn.
Giovanni Trapattoni’s team abused the porous Estonian defense from the get-go, and took a lead after just 13 minutes thanks to a header by Ipswich Town midfielder Keith Andrews. Estonia were down a man by halftime after Andrei Stepanov went in on a clumsy challenge on Keane in the 35th minute and was sent off with a second yellow card.
Lindpere came into the match in the 61st minute, but the Red Bulls midfielder could do little to rescue the Estonians from the coming onslaught. Stoke City striker Jon Walters headed in Keane’s cross in the 68th minute, and Keane added his first tally of the night three minutes later after tapping in a rebound off a Walters shot.
The Galaxy striker then finished off the evening by converting a penalty kick in the 88th minute.
Up four goals on aggregate, the Irish return home to host the second leg on Nov. 15 at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Ireland are looking to clinch a spot in the Euros for the first time since 1988. Estonia look likely to continue their spell of never qualifying for the tournament.