DUBLIN: Ciaran Clark’s early header ensured the Republic of Ireland’s preparations for the Euro 2016 finals began with a victory as Switzerland fell by the wayside in Dublin.
Clark, who is struggling to get a game for Premier League basement boys Aston Villa, struck with a second-minute header to double his international tally and send a Good Friday crowd of 35,450 home from the Aviva Stadium with smiles on their faces.
On a night when manager Martin O’Neill – who this week landed himself in hot water over his comments about WAGs – handed senior debuts to Alan Judge, Eunan O’Kane and Jonny Hayes, it was not always pretty, but ultimately proved effective as his side extended their run to one defeat in seven games this season.
O’Neill will experiment once again on Tuesday night when Slovakia head for the Aviva, but he will do so having learned a little more about some of the men on the periphery of the group of players he will take to France this summer.
Holland were beaten by a late Blaise Matuidi goal on an emotional night in Amsterdam.
Tributes were paid before and during the friendly international with France to the legendary former Holland and Ajax star Johan Cruyff, who died on Thursday.
Matuidi struck three minutes from full-time to secure a 3-2 win for France, moments after Holland had come from two goals down to level.
The referee stopped play to signal a minute’s applause in the 14th minute, representing the iconic number worn by Cruyff for Holland.
However, by then the hosts were already 2-0 down through goals from Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud.
Griezmann hit an unstoppable free-kick from the edge of the area to open the scoring after only six minutes.
Seven minutes later Holland cleared a corner only as far as Matuidi who nodded the ball back into the box for Giroud to volley home.
Luuk de Jong halved the defecit when he glanced in a cross from Memphis Depay.
Dimitri Payet then hit a post for France before Holland levelled through Ibrahim Afellay, who was left unmarked from Depay’s short corner.
But the home fans were still celebrating when Anthony Martial played in Matuidi to hit the winner.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal suffered a surprise home defeat by Bulgaria.
Marcelinho’s 19th-minute effort settled the match as the visitors ran out 1-0 winners.
Real Madrid star Ronaldo was denied by Bulgaria goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov three times as Portugal searched in vain for an equaliser.
Elsewhere, an own goal from Maxime Chanot and strikes from Milan Djuric and Miralem Pjanic gave Bosnia-Herzegovina a 3-0 win in Luxembourg.
Belarus drew 0-0 in Armenia while Latvia’s trip to Slovakia was also goalless.
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