Europe: Three and Easy for host nation and Scotland
The inaugural Carling Nations Cup saw the first round of matches completed this week at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium. In the opening match on Tuesday second half goals from Darron Gibson, Damien Duff and Kevin Fahey gave the host nation Republic of Ireland something to cheer against a lacklustre Wales side. In the other game Scotland were easy winners against a poor Northern Ireland side beating their hapless opponenents also by three goals to nil.
The Carling Nations Cup is a throwback to the old Home Nations Championship which saw its final action in 1984 when Northern Ireland won the title. Although the new Carling Nations Cup doesn’t include England it still resembles the format of the old competition but with the Republic of Ireland taking England’s place. All of the games in the tournament are to be staged in Dublin and the first round of matches this week saw two one-sided victories.
Tuesday’s match featured host nation Republic of Ireland against Wales who were under new management after Gary Speed recently took on the role as their coach. It was to be a game to forget for Speed who, after encouragingly seeing his team come in at half-time with the game goalless, saw his team fall apart in the second half. Darron Gibson got the goal scoring action under way early in the second half with a thunderous strike from outside the box before Damien Duff scored his first goal at international level for five years to double their advantage. Keith Fahey finished off the scoring with a well struck free-kick eight minutes before full time to give the hosts a fantastic start to the competition.
The score enjoyed by the Republic of Ireland would be replicated twenty four hours later by a Scotland team who are starting to gain confidence under coach Craig Levein. Kenny Miller opened the scoring against Northern Ireland after 19 minutes when the Irish defenders failed to clear the ball and Miller was able to hit home from close range. The lead was doubled on the half hour mark when James McArthur’s cross-cum-shot somehow found its way into the top left hand corner of the goal. The game was sealed six minutes into the second half when Kris Commons increased Northern Ireland’s misery with a great shot to secure three points for the Tartan Army.
The next two rounds of games take place in May and the team with the best record after three games will take the trophy. Next time out there’s an all-Ireland affair when hosts Republic of Ireland take on their neighbours Northern Ireland whilst Scotland will face Wales.