Ireland, Croatia coast as Portugal struggle

Updated: 12 November 2011 11:06 IST

The Republic of Ireland, Croatia and the Czech Republic all took giant strides towards qualifying for Euro 2012 on Friday but Portugal were left with plenty of work to do after their stalemate in Bosnia.

Ireland, Croatia coast as Portugal struggle

Paris:

The Republic of Ireland, Croatia and the Czech Republic all took giant strides towards qualifying for Euro 2012 on Friday but Portugal were left with plenty of work to do after their stalemate in Bosnia.


In Tallinn, Ireland swept aside nine-man Estonia 4-0 to put themselves on the brink of their first European championships since 1988 and erase memories of their painful 2010 World Cup play-off defeat to France.

Giovanni Trapattoni's men mastered minnows Estonia in this play-off first leg with a double from inspirational skipper Robbie Keane after first half contributions from Keith Andrews and Jonathan Walters.

Estonia did not help their cause when Andrei Stepanov was red-carded for a foul on Keane on 35 minutes, with captain skipper Raio Piiroja following him off the pitch in the last quarter of an hour.

Keane told Sky Sports: "Full credit to all the players, to come here and win 4-0 is a great result.

"I said yesterday there was a calmness in the camp - the confidence we have in the squad and the way we've played in the whole campaign we deserve to go through.

"It's only the first leg but we're looking forward to the return leg now."

With the return leg in Dublin on Tuesday Ireland can start thinking about packing their bags to Ukraine and Poland.

Keane added: "We can't take anything for granted but if we dont qualify now we'll be devastated."

Croatia are also firmly in the driving seat in their play-off against Turkey after an equally impressive 3-0 defeat in Istanbul.

Ivica Olic, Mario Mandzukic and Vedran Corluka did the damage to give the Croats a priceless win away from home ahead of the second leg in Zagreb.

Croatia got off to the best possible start, racing into a two minute lead when Bayern Munich striker Olic tapped in Corluka's cross from the left corner flag, with Turkey keeper Volkan Demirel found wanting.

That was Croatia's fastest ever goal in Euro qualifying.

Croatia doubled their lead on an electric counter-attack down the right.

Darijo Srna sent in a peach of a cross with Modric's shot blocked. The ball found its way over the right flank again and Srna tried again, this time Wolfsburg forward Mandzukic heading in by the far post.

On 51 minutes Corluka compounded Turkey's misery, escaping his marker to run onto Srna's whipped freekick to head home from five metres.

Coach Slavan Bilic told Star TV: "Nobody can expect a score like this when you come to this fantastic stadium.

"It's a fantastic result, it is a great day for us but nothing is over."

Turkey boss Guus Hiddink reflected: "Of course when you go 1-0 down in the second minute then Croatia are happy and they drew back with 10 men.

"We had a lot of possession but it was difficult to outplay Croatia. They are very strong and they know how to play final chance. But we didn't have the power.. to outplay one and one, so we didn't create the pressure but we did create real real danger.

In Prague, winger Vaclav Pilar and sweeper Tomas Sivok gave the Czech Republic a priceless 2-0 win over Montenegro.

Czech coach Michal Bilek observed: "We're only half way through... we're in for a terribly difficult game in Montenegro because they always gain a big advantage at home, their fans are a loud crowd."

Euro 2004 finalists Portugal came away from their trip to Zenica with a goalless draw, with Bosnia-Herzegovina striker Vedad Ibisevic spurning two late chances to break the deadlock.

After a largely uninspiring performance, Portugal, who famously ended Bosnia's 2010 World Cup hopes with two 1-0 play-off wins, now face a nervy return leg in Lisbon next week.

Cristiano Ronaldo cut a frustrated figure, the Real Madrid star saying: "The pitch was catastrophic, which produced a result that we're not satisfed with.

"I was expecting a win but unfortunately we weren't able to score. I expect certain victory in Lisbon. We are better than Bosnia and we'll prove it on the return leg."



Topics : Football Bastian Schweinsteiger Germany Andrea Pirlo Mario Balotelli Euro 2012
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