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McClean double sees Republic win in Moldova

James McClean celebrates as competitive debutant Calum O'Dowda also shows his delight

James McClean brought his international goals tally up to seven with his two strikes

The Republic of Ireland took advantage of Wales’ slip-up earlier in the day as two James McClean goals helped them see off Moldova in the World Cup qualifier.

After the Welsh were held at home by Georgia, Shane Long’s early goal gave the Irish the perfect start but Igor Bugaev levelled just before the break.

The Republic were rattled by the equaliser after Wes Hoolahan’s artistry had helped them boss the first half.

But McClean’s goals in the 69th and 75th minutes eased Irish nerves.

The visitors had appeared in complete control in Chisinau after Hoolahan’s perfectly weighted pass was followed by a superb Long finish in the second minute as he ended an 18-game scoring drought for club and country.

But after not being threatened in the opening 44 minutes, Republic keeper Darren Randolph had to pick the ball out of his own net seconds before the interval as Bugaev produced a composed finish after outpacing a badly caught out Shane Duffy.

Relive all the action from Moldova v Rep of Ireland

The Republic endured a few nervous moments after the break but McClean stabbed home from close range before another clever piece of play from Hoolahan released captain Seamus Coleman to tee up the West Brom winger for another close-range finish.

The win moves the Republic two points ahead of Wales in Group D, although Serbia lead the table on goal difference after beating Austria 3-2 on Sunday.

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Wes Hoolahan produced an inventive display for the Republic

Classy Hoolahan pulls strings for Republic

Hoolahan’s invention was key to the Republic’s win, the 34-year-old Norwich midfielder totally justifying his recall as he and Glenn Whelan replaced the concussed Robbie Brady and suspended Jeff Hendrick from Thursday’s win over Georgia.

Hoolahan’s gorgeous first-time pass which set up Long’s early goal was his stand-out contribution but there were numerous occasions when his speed of thought created openings for Martin O’Neill’s side.

While his attacking instincts did result in him taking a few wrong options, Hoolahan’s impressive evening was summed up by his delightful nutmeg on Alexandru Dedov which allowed Coleman to square for McClean’s clinching third goal.

Once again, Hoolahan’s display will leave many Republic fans wondering why he has only accumulated 36 caps in a career which saw him make his first competitive start at the age of 31.

Republic hold nerve after wobble

Anything other than a victory over a Moldovan side that lost at home to Liechtenstein in the Euro 2016 qualifiers would have been a big setback for O’Neill’s side.

Wales’ surprise home draw against Georgia earlier on Sunday suddenly made the Republic’s laboured home victory over the same opposition on Thursday look a good result but failing to get the job done in Chisinau would have undone that good work.

Blackburn defender Duffy’s poor positioning for Bugaev’s sucker punch equaliser as he was caught out by Alexandru Gatcan’s harmless looking ball out of defence will be a concern for O’Neill.

Buoyed by the equaliser, Moldova looked dangerous in the 10 minutes following the break before the rattled Irish regrouped as McClean stabbed them back into the lead after James McCarthy’s scuffed shot had rebounded into his path off Jonathan Walters.

By that stage, Long was off the field because of injury which led O’Neill to hand a first competitive appearance to Bristol City forward Callum O’Dowda.

After McClean’s clinching goal, tempers flared in the closing stages with Walters claiming that he had received a studs-up challenge to his midriff and manager O’Neill raced on to the field to calm the Stoke forward and the fiery McClean.

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Martin O’Neill came on the field to calm Jonathan Walters as tempers flared late on

What they said

Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill: “We played excellently in the first half. We should have maybe been two or three in front. Then the goal knocked us back for a while.

“But we came around in the second half. We defended strongly. We created some chances and won the game and it was a big win for us.

“It’s great to win away from home. I thought we played with a bit of panache.”

What’s next?

The Republic’s next Group D qualifier is away to Austria on Saturday, 12 November.

Live Text

Match ends, Moldova 1, Republic of Ireland 3.

Second Half ends, Moldova 1, Republic of Ireland 3.

Foul by Aleksandru Gatcan (Moldova).

Callum O’Dowda (Republic of Ireland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Corner, Moldova. Conceded by Glenn Whelan.

Corner, Moldova. Conceded by Seamus Coleman.

Attempt blocked. Eugeniu Cebotaru (Moldova) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Veaceslav Posmac with a headed pass.

Foul by David Meyler (Republic of Ireland).

Andrei Cojocari (Moldova) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by David Meyler (Republic of Ireland).

Eugeniu Cebotaru (Moldova) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Aleksandru Gatcan (Moldova) is shown the yellow card.

Jonathan Walters (Republic of Ireland) is shown the yellow card.

Jonathan Walters (Republic of Ireland) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Alexandru Dedov (Moldova).

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

Delay in match Shane Duffy (Republic of Ireland) because of an injury.

Igor Bugaev (Moldova) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Seamus Coleman (Republic of Ireland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Igor Bugaev (Moldova).

Attempt blocked. James McClean (Republic of Ireland) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

Substitution, Republic of Ireland. Eunan O’Kane replaces Wes Hoolahan.

David Meyler (Republic of Ireland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Eugeniu Sidorenco (Moldova).

Substitution, Moldova. Eugeniu Sidorenco replaces Gheorghe Andronic.

Foul by Vadim Bolohan (Moldova).

James McClean (Republic of Ireland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Jonathan Walters (Republic of Ireland).

Victor Golovatenco (Moldova) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Substitution, Republic of Ireland. David Meyler replaces James McCarthy.

Andrei Cojocari (Moldova) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by Andrei Cojocari (Moldova).

James McClean (Republic of Ireland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Gheorghe Andronic (Moldova) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Wes Hoolahan (Republic of Ireland).

Foul by Aleksandru Gatcan (Moldova).

Callum O’Dowda (Republic of Ireland) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Goal! Moldova 1, Republic of Ireland 3. James McClean (Republic of Ireland) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Seamus Coleman.

Foul by Victor Golovatenco (Moldova).

Jonathan Walters (Republic of Ireland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/37538915