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Fulham winger Damien Duff made the winning goal for Robbie Keane as the Republic of Ireland secured a nervy and important win in Cyprus tonight.

It looked as though Giovanni Trapattoni’s men might have to settle for a point for long periods of a tight contest in Nicosia but Duff made the most of a bit of room on the right flank to send over a dangerous cross which Keane headed emphatically into the roof of the net.

Earlier, the visitors had made the perfect start when Richard Dunne nodded a corner into the path of Kevin Doyle who drove the ball through a crowd of bodies and into the net. Cyprus then laid siege to the Ireland goal and Shay Given made two fantastic saves before the hosts managed to level the contest. Sean St. Ledger did well to block an Andreas Avraam shot but the ball fell kindly for Marios Elia who beat Given from six yards out.

Then came Duff’s late moment of magic to create the winner for Keane and keep Ireland on course to reach the finals in South Africa next summer. They still have a home clash against group favourites Italy to come.