Republic of Ireland 3-1 Bulgaria: Browne, Long and Collins score in friendly win
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Republic of Ireland secured a 3-1 friendly win over Bulgaria as a trio of players opened their accounts on the international stage.

Alan Browne, Kevin Long and James Collins all scored their first international goals as Republic of Ireland eased to a 3-1 friendly win over Bulgaria.

In a match where all the goals came in the second half, Browne put Ireland ahead when he slotted into an empty net after Ronan Curtis' initial shot was spilled.

Bulgaria equalised through Ivelin Popov's spot-kick after John Egan, who captained Ireland for the first time, gave away a penalty.

But a Long header and a close-range finish from Collins gave the hosts a comfortable victory in Dublin.

The result means Ireland remain unbeaten in Mick McCarthy's second stint as manager.

McCarthy made 10 changes from the side which drew 1-1 with Switzerland in their last Euro 2020 qualifier and awarded first caps to five players.

Goalkeeper Mark Travers and midfielder Josh Cullen started while midfielder Jack Byrne, striker Collins and goalkeeper Kieran O'Hara all came on in the second half.

A low-key first half saw just one attempt on target from both sides with Bulgaria posing the greatest threat from set-piece situations.

The home side took the lead 11 minutes into the second half when Curtis' long-range strike was fumbled by Hristo Ivanov and Browne tapped home.

Bulgaria equalised from the penalty spot after Cyrus Christie got himself in a tangle and Egan brought down Bozhidar Kraev.

Popov confidently struck his effort high into the net, giving Travers no chance. However, Ireland rallied and sealed the victory with two late goals from substitutes.

Long headed in Byrne's corner and then Enda Stevens' low cross was turned in by the sliding Collins.

 

What does it mean? After eight for McCarthy 

After a dramatic late equaliser against Switzerland, this match might have been something of an anti-climax for Ireland.

Against a Bulgaria side who have not won a game for 11 months, Ireland were typically disciplined before a late flourish put a gloss on the scoreline.

McCarthy will be happy he got the chance to take a look at some players on the fringes of his squad and increased his unbeaten run since returning to manage Ireland to eight games.

Hourihane comfortable at left-back

With Stevens suspended for next month's qualifier in Georgia, McCarthy switched Conor Hourihane from midfield to left-back. The Aston Villa man slotted into the position with ease which solves one of McCarthy's selection worries for the trip to Tbilisi.

Ivanov's international career over after one cap?

Journeyman Bulgaria goalkeeper Ivanov won his first cap at the age of 37, but it may well prove to be his only appearance. The grey-haired shotstopper should have saved Curtis' initial shot which allowed Browne to score and flapped at a cross for Long's header.

Key Opta Facts

- Republic of Ireland are unbeaten in their last eight games (W4 D4); their longest run without a defeat since between May 2011 and June 2012 (15 games).

- Bulgaria are winless in their six previous visits to Republic of Ireland in all competitions (P6 W0 D3 L3).

- Republic of Ireland scored three goals in an international game for the first time since June 2017, when they won 3-1 against Uruguay in a friendly.

- Alan Browne netted his first senior goal for Republic of Ireland, in what was his first home start for the national side.

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What's next?

Ireland travel to Georgia for a crunch Euro 2020 Group D qualifier on Saturday 12 October and then face Switzerland the following Tuesday

Bulgaria are also in qualification action with an away trip to Montenegro in Group A on Friday 11 October before hosting England in Sofia three days later.

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