The Republic of Ireland returned to winning ways with a 4-1 win over the Faroe Islands in Torshavn to give embattled manager Giovanni Trapattoni some breathing space
Nonetheless, the Boys in Green produced a much-improved performance in the second half and wrapped up the win with goals from Marc Wilson, Jon Walters and Darren O'Dea as well as an own goal from Pol Johannus Justinussen. The Faroes made Ireland sweat by pulling proceedings back to 2-1 midway through the half but the manner in which his players exerted control will have pleased the Irish manager.
Trapattoni is often criticised for playing inverted wingers in his 4-4-2 formation, especially as goals from out wide are a rarity from his Ireland side. However, surprise starter Robbie Brady showed his confidence early on, cutting in after nine minutes to try to curl the ball past Gunnar Nielsen. Luckily for the former Manchester City goalkeeper, the ball evaded both him and the goal as Brady over-hit his shot.
On the other wing, Aiden McGeady looked much sharper after putting in one of his worst shifts in an Ireland jersey in Friday's defeat. McGeady showed some neat touches, and offered the short option for Brady's corners. Two of his first-half crosses were perfectly flighted for Keith Andrews and Jon Walters, but neither could get their headers on target.
Faroe Islands manager Lars Olsen had said that he hoped his side could get a result from the game, and offered attacks of their own. The minnows looked dangerous from set-pieces and long-throws, but Keiren Westwood was only tested on a couple of occasions, with Daniel Udsen and Simun Samuelsen attempting shots from range.
The game evened out towards the end of the opening 45 minutes, with the Faroes restricted to shots from distance and Ireland relying on Brady and Coleman down the right to create. A great through pass from Walters found Andrews in the box, but his cross went straight to Nielsen when both Robbie Keane and McGeady were free in the area with the goal gaping.
Trapattoni surprised many by sending Simon Cox on for Robbie Brady at half time, but looked to be vindicated as Cox was involved in the move that led to Marc Wilson's first international goal on 47 minutes. Wilson cut in from wide to launch a long-range effort which was deflected on the way into the net. The goal reinvigorated Ireland, with Jon Walters doubling the score five minutes later, heading in Wilson's cross. Robbie Keane tried to claim he got a touch as Walters nodded down into the six-yard box but replays confirmed the Stoke City man's second international goal.
Ireland stepped off the gas a little after the second goal, and saw the Faroes claw one back on 68 minutes. Substitute Arnbjorn Hansen rose above John O'Shea to head the ball past Keiren Westwood after a clever dummy from Christian Holst opened up the Irish defence.
Unlike in other games where Trapattoni's men collapsed after conceding, Ireland restored the two-goal advantage less than five minutes later. Robbie Keane was unlucky not to be given a penalty, but the Faroes handed the advantage back to Ireland when Pol Johannus Justinussen put the ball into his own net from Walters' cross after a rapid counter-attack.
Trapattoni sent on Shane Long near the end, and with the Faroes tiring, Darren O'Dea scored his first international goal in the 88th minute from McGeady's corner.
The 4-1 victory may be too little, too late for Trapattoni to convince his doubters, and many will be watching closely to see if he keeps his job. However, despite Fridays' aberration, the Irish have six points from nine and still have it all to play for on the road to Brazil 2014.