Westwood spares Irish blushes
Goalkeeper Keiren Westwood was the Ireland's hero as his fine save denied Macedonia an equaliser in the 2-1 victory in Dublin.
Giovanni Trapattoni's men raced into a 2-0 lead within 21 minutes at the Aviva Stadium as Aiden McGeady's first senior international goal and Robbie Keane's 46th took full advantage of blunders from goalkeeper Edin Nuredinoski.
However, Ivan Trickovski pulled one back on the stroke of half-time and then forced Westwood into a fine 75th-minute save as the visitors battled valiantly in search of a leveller.
The game was a little more than a minute old when McGeady, who had been sent out under explicit instructions to shoot on sight, cut inside from the left and did just that.
His low drive was well struck, but it should not have eluded Nuredinovski's grasp to nestle in the bottom corner.
Things could hardly have started more perfectly for Trapattoni and his players, and they went close again with 11 minutes gone when Kevin Doyle climbed well to head down Kevin Kilbane's cross, and it took a brave intervention by the Macedonian goalkeeper to prevent Keane from extending his side's lead.
Darron Gibson blasted a 21st-minute free-kick towards goal and saw Nuredinovski fumble it into the path of the ever-alert Keane, who bundled it over the line to double the dose but if the home fans among a sparse crowd thought the points were safe, they were mistaken as Macedonia launched a spirited fightback.
With midfielder Darko Tasevski prompting behind strikers Goran Pandev and Ilco Naumoski, they began to make an impression and they got their reward on the stroke of half-time when Trickovski accepted Pandev's pass and cut inside Richard Dunne, his deft finish giving the visitors hope.
The Irish had resumed in sluggish fashion, but they found their tempo once again as the half wore on with McGeady seeing another rasping effort blocked and Damien Duff thumping a low drive inches wide but Macedonia were refusing to lie down and the tension mounted as they forced a series of free-kicks to fulfil at least part of Trapattoni's prophecy.
Ireland had Westwood to thank for preserving their lead with 15 minutes remaining when midfielder Muhamed Demiri lifted the ball over Dunne to find Trickovski, the goalkeeper coming swiftly from his line to make an invaluable block.