Gareth O'Reilly reporting from the Aviva Stadium.
The Republic of Ireland made light work of Moldova on Friday night in the Aviva Stadium thanks to two first half goals from Daryl Murphy in a game which you may have been mistaken for as a friendly encounter such was the lack of bite and tempo on exhibit.
There were plenty of positives for Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane to ponder over before they head for Cardiff for Monday's match, such as the impact and liveliness both Callum O’Dowda and Wes Hoolahan. They contributed to the Irish attack along with the impressive Murphy upfront as well. Meanwhile David Meyler looked assured playing just in front of the back four as he captain the side on the night.
It took less than two minutes for the Boys in Green to take the lead with Murphy steering home a long throw by Stephen Ward that took a knock from the head of Moldovan Alexandru Gatcan.
A worry straight after the goal was naturally that Ireland, who have regularly gone in front under O’Neill’s stewardship, would resort to their old ways of putting everyone behind the ball and trying to see out the game.
However Ireland continued to push the Moldovans high up the pitch with the home side nearly even being caught out for pushing too many players forward after Wes Hoolahan’s wayward pass led to the visitors first look at the Irish goal, although it was nothing that would trouble Darrren Randolph.
Shane Long is a man that hasn’t scored a goal for club or country since February and the Southampton man looked simply devoid of confidence early on.
His first opportunity of the game came after 15 minutes when the superb Callum O’Dowda played a ball across the box to him, only for the striker to smash inches wide of the Moldovan post.
Just moments later and Ireland were 2-0 up thanks to a fantastic header from Murphy. The goal was made possible only because of the careful delivery afforded to the cross by Stephen Ward after Hoolahan opened up the play by spraying a cross field pass.
Long would again find himself in with a chance of making the back of the opposition’s net bulge as he raced through after an O’Dowda through ball only for Ilie Cebanu to make a fantastic save from close range, with Long’s rebounded effort finally being cleared away by Petru Racu.
The team in Group D with just two points to show for their campaign so far did force Randolph into an acrobatic piece of goalkeeping just shy of the half hour mark. Sergiu Platica had a half volley that looked as if it was about to hit the back of the net by dipping in under the crossbar.
With half time approaching Ciaran Clark was the next Irish player to fail to score after another quality delivery was sent in, this time via the boot of Jeff Hendrick.
With the score sitting at 2-0 at half time and Moldova putting up little fight, it was with little surprise that the tempo in the second half was slightly more subdued.
One thing did continue in almost copycat form from the first half was Shane Long's peroformance. Hemissed one of the easiest chances that he’ll have this season as Hoolahan broke forward at pace before pass left to O’Dowda whose effort deflected into Long’s path.
However the 30-year-old striker hammered wide with the goal at his mercy, cue an aggressive thump of the air from the frustrated number nine.
O’Neill took what seemed like an age to introduce his first substitutes as it wasn’t until twelve minutes from time that Aiden McGeady and Harry Arter were called upon to enter the fray, replacing Wes Hoolahan and Daryl Murphy respectively.
The loudest cheer of the second half was reserved for the introduction of Seani Maguire on 83 minutes as the ex-Cork City man replaced another former Leeside striker in the form of Shane Long.
However on this night Maguire was not to score late on like he had done in the 2016 FAI Cup Final as the contest finished 2-0.
Republic of Ireland: Darren Randolph; Cyrus Chrstie, Shane Duffy, Ciaran Clark, Stephen Ward; David Meyler; Callum O’Dowda, Jeff Hendrick, Wes Hoolahan (Aiden McGeady 78); Shane Long (Sean Maguire 83), Daryl Murphy (Harry Arter 78).
Subs Not Used: Colin Doyle, Rob Elliot, John O’Shea, Richard Keogh, Glenn Whelan, Eunan O’Kane, Conor Hourihane, Scott Hogan, Kevin Long.
Yellow Cards: Harry Arter (90)
Moldova: Ilie Cebanu; Vitalie Bordian, Petru Racu, Alexandru Gatcan, Artiom Rozgoniuc; Artur Ionita, Akexandru Epureanu, Alexandru Dedov (Eugeniu Cociuc 55), Sergiu Platica (Vladimir Ambros 79), Gheoghe Anton; Radu Ginsari
Subs Not Used: Alexei Koselev, Serghei Pascenco, Dinu Graur, Alexandru Antoniuc, Andrei Cojocari, Alexandru Pascenco, Petru Ojog
Yellow Cards: Artiom Rozgoniuc (41)
Red Cards: Alexandru Gatcan (90+1)
Referee: Bas Nijhuis (NED)
Attendance: 50,000 (est)
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Callum O’Dowda (Republic of Ireland)