The Republic of Ireland have come from behind to beat Andorra 4-1 to record the first win of the Stephen Kenny era.
Troy Parrott scored a brace to inspire an Irish comeback after Marc Vales headed the hosts – who are ranked 158th in the world – into a shock second-half lead.
The Spurs striker found the bottom corner with a clinical finish from 20 yards to draw the Boys in Green level, before heading Conor Hourihane’s cross into the net to complete a quick turnaround.
Daryl Horgan set up Jason Knight for Ireland’s third, before Knight returned the favour for Horgan to cap off a strong comeback for the Boys in Green at the Estadi Nacional.
All three Irish goalscorers netted their first international goals for their country, and there was also a debut for St. Mirren midfielder Jamie McGrath.
Full match report
The road to Qatar hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts, with Ireland falling to defeats against Serbia and a humiliating 1-0 loss to Luxembourg, before finally finishing off with a 1-1 draw against Qatar.
Ireland entered the friendly in Andorra as overwhelming favourites, with Kenny still searching desperately for his maiden win as senior manager and a chance to kickstart his reign.
Kenny named a strong lineup, with a back four of Matt Doherty, Dara O’Shea, John Egan and James McClean starting ahead of goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu. Knight, Conor Hourihane, Josh Cullen and Ronan Curtis were included in midfield, with Troy Parrott joining James Collins in attack.
The first half was a poor affair which was low on quality, with Ireland failing to register a single shot on target. Collins had Ireland’s best opportunity of the half, but headed Knight’s cross over from 10 yards.
Things went from bad to worse seven minutes into the second half.
Vales was inexplicably left unmarked from a deep Andorra free kick, and the defender powered an excellent header into the top corner from 12 yards to give Andorra the lead in the 52nd minute.
Ireland responded well, upping the tempo immediately from the restart, and drew level within five minutes of Vales’ opener.
Parrott collected the ball 30 yards from goal before dribbling determinedly towards the edge of the box and rifling an accurate low strike into the left bottom corner from 20 yards for his first international goal.
The 19-year-old striker, who had a quiet first half, grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck.
A moment after scoring, the Dubliner unselfishly passed to Curtis, who was unable to direct his effort on target.
Parrott doubled his tally in the 61st minute, steering a downward header past 19-year-old Andorra goalkeeper Iker from Hourihane’s teasing cross to the back post.
Kenny turned to his bench, with Adam Idah and Horgan replacing Collins and Curtis.
Meath native McGrath also came on for his international debut in the 82nd minute, replacing Parrott.
Knight added a third two minutes later, converting Horgan’s wonderful cross from close range to put the game beyond doubt.
The Derby midfielder then crossed for Horgan to head home late on to register Ireland’s first win since beating New Zealand in a friendly in 2019.
Next up is Hungary.