By Mark Szczuka & Cillan O’Conchuir
Ireland kept their World Cup qualification hopes alive after a brace from Daryl Murphy secured a 2-0 win over Moldova in Dublin. After their 3-2 defeat to Austria, Serbia are just one point in front of Wales and a further point ahead of Ireland with one match remaining.
After watching Wales defeat Georgia 1-0 in Tbilisi, Ireland got the perfect start inside two minutes as Shane Duffy flicked on a long Stephen Ward throw and Daryl Murphy fired home to give Ireland the lead. Martin O’Neill, who had signed a contract extension prior to his side’s two final group games, saw his side gain a 2-0 lead inside 20 minutes as West Hoolhan swung a pass wide left to Stephen Ward. The Burnley full-back received the ball wide left and crossed to the far post for Murphy to head home the second, which killed the game off before half-time. Ireland keeper Darren Randolph saved well after Sergiu Platica’s shot looked to have the Middlesbrough shot-stopper beaten but an acrobatic save kept Ireland’s two-goal advantage in tact.
Victory for O’Neill’s men means that a draw between Ukraine and Croatia, or a defeat for Scotland against Slovenia, and a win for Ireland against Wales on Monday in their last match, would see them qualify for the World Cup playoffs in November.