Dublin (AFP) – Robbie Keane ended his international career in perfect fashion, scoring his historic 68th goal in his 146th and final Ireland appearance in Wednesday’s 4-0 friendly thrashing of Oman in Dublin.
The 30th-minute volley drew the Los Angeles Galaxy forward level with German World Cup winner Gerd Muller in the international all-time goalscoring charts.
Strike partner Jon Walters turned provider for the goal, and when Keane scooped the ball over defender Nadir Mabrook’s head inside the penalty area, there was no doubt what would happen next.
There was the slightest hesitation to line up the perfect contact, but it was a case of deja vu from then on with the ball hitting the net and Keane off and running towards the crowd, with his famous cartwheel celebration rolled out for one last performance.
There was no shock Keane got on the scoreboard, the only surprise was it took half an hour in a pre-World Cup qualifying friendly.
Oman were always likely to become the 37th different country Keane scored against, especially with the entire team -– and crowd -– willing the Dubliner on.
The 36-year-old was captain for the night, as well as the main attraction in Lansdowne Road, with the President of Ireland making a personal presentation to him before kick off.
There were also video tributes from Pele, Steven Gerrard and Bono, the U2 lead singer, but the only presentation Keane wanted was a goal on a platter.
Before he could celebrate his own strike, though, another Robbie made his mark -– Robbie Brady, who scored twice for Ireland at Euro 2016, curling home a beautiful free kick after just seven minutes.
He lifted it over the static wall with ease, and it was well out of the reach of Faiz Al Rushaidi in the Oman goal.
– Fine finish –
Harry Arter, making a push for inclusion in next Monday’s World Cup 2018 qualifier in Serbia, might typically have shot in the position he found himself on 13 minutes, but instead tried –- and failed –- to thread a pass through for Keane.
Then it was Walters’s turn to create a chance for Keane, passing up a clear goalscoring opportunity to let his skipper take the glory, but Keane couldn’t find a way past the returning defence.
Walters hit the post soon after, as the green tide rushed toward Al Rushaidi’s goal, and seconds later Keane tried to lob the goalkeeper following Whelan’s clever through ball, only to lift it just over the bar.
But the script was not to be ripped up just yet, and on 30 minutes Keane delivered one of his finest finishes.
He ran towards a pocket of the crowd packed with boys from the Dublin club he played for as a kid, and then raised his hands to the skies –- honouring his late father, one of his greatest fans and most enduring inspiration.
Walters made it three before half time, nodding home a wonderful Brady delivery, as the pace of the game began to fade.
Walters bagged his 12th international goal after the break, but the loudest cheer was for Keane’s departure on 57 minutes, with the striker receiving a standing ovation from fans, players and coaching staff.
Over 18 years have passed since Keane made his Ireland debut against the Czech Republic in 1998, it will be a long time before Ireland sees his like again.
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