Kevin Doyle and Alex Pearce helped the Republic of Ireland warm up for their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with a 2-0 victory over Oman.
The scoreline may suggest otherwise, but Ireland eased to a comfortable friendly victory at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Wednesday.
Doyle, who joined Crystal Palace on loan on transfer deadline day earlier this week, scored the only goal of the first half in the 20th minute when he headed home a Robbie Brady corner. David Meyler was then unlucky not to double the lead when his inventive chip hit the crossbar.
There were noticeably fewer chances in the second half, but Pearce did net with nine minutes remaining to give hosts Ireland a first win since a 3-0 victory over Latvia last November in Martin O’Neill’s first match as manager.
O’Neill can now prepare his side for Sunday’s trip to Georgia in their opening European Championship qualifier.
Shay Given started in goal for the home side for the first time in over two years after ending his international exile, while midfielder Darron Gibson featured in his first competitive match since suffering a serious knee injury playing for Ireland against Kazakhstan last October.
Ireland saw plenty of the ball in the opening stages, but it was the visitors who had the first effort of the game when Mohammed Al Seyabi tried his luck from distance and shot just wide.
The hosts had their first real sight on goal in the 17th minute when Brady’s shot deflected into the path of Stephen Quinn, who pulled his strike from the edge of the box past the right-hand post.
However, the deadlock was broken just three minutes later as Brady whipped a corner to the near post and Doyle leapt highest to plant his header past helpless Oman goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi.
Buoyed by the opener, Ireland pushed for a second and Anthony Pilkington was denied by a smart stop from Al Habsi after receiving Wes Hoolahan’s throughball in the area, before Pearce’s goal-bound header from the resulting corner was headed clear by Hassan Mudhafar.
Meyler went even closer in the 37th minute when his audacious 20-yard chip beat Al Habsi but rebounded off the crossbar before being hacked clear.
Doyle flicked a near-post header that went harmlessly wide after the restart, while Robbie Keane, Shane Long and Aiden McGeady were all introduced in an attempt to breathe life into a lacklustre second half.
Indeed, Everton winger McGeady came close to doing just that in the 67th minute, shimmying inside on to his left foot and beating Al Habsi but his shot was cleared off the goalline by Mohammed Al-Musalami.
Brady was the next to try and double the lead with quarter of an hour left with a bending free-kick that cleared the bar.
Pearce did add a second when he side-footed home from 10 yards after poor defending from an Ireland set-piece, marking the second time that the Reading defender has scored against Oman.
There was almost a third in the 89th minute when McGeady curled a superb shot onto the frame of the crossbar, but the game remained at 2-0.
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