Ferguson scores first goal as Republic beat Latvia
Last updated on .From the section Republic of Ireland
In-form teenage striker Evan Ferguson scored his first international goal as the Republic of Ireland beat Latvia 3-2 in a friendly at Aviva Stadium.
Roberts Uldrikis pulled a goal back with a screamer and Arturs Zjuzins levelled in first-half injury time.
Substitute Chiedozie Ogbene struck a winner in the second half.
All eyes were on Ferguson, making his first senior start in an Irish jersey, after his goalscoring exploits in a breakthrough season Brighton.
Dubbed a "superstar" by Danny Murphy after scoring twice as Brighton reached the FA Cup semi-finals, the 18-year-old reacted quickest to Michael Obafemi's cutback to spark the loudest cheer of the night in Dublin on 17 minutes.
Ferguson became the Republic's youngest scorer since legendary striker Robbie Keane with his goal.
• None Ferguson stars as Republic beat Latvia - as it happened
The strike partners had been involved in the Irish opener as their link-up play allowed debutant Will Smallbone to whip in a first-time ball and Cardiff's O'Dowda raced in to head home after five minutes.
Ferguson, buoyed by his goal, almost doubled his tally when his effort from a tight angle was deflected into the side-netting by Antonijs Cernomordijs as the hosts missed numerous chances to pull further clear.
Alan Browne, O'Dowda and Smallbone all had attempts and Latvia capitalised on the Republic's lack of a clinical edge.
Vladislavs Gutkovskis had spurned a golden chance after racing in behind the home defence, but Stephen Kenny's were eventually punished when Uldrikis' 25-yard screamer flew past helpless Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher and into the top corner.
The home crowd were temporarily silenced by the Latvian goal, but they were stunned in first-half injury time when Zjuzins' low effort flew off the soaking turf, took a deflection off Nathan Collins and, to compound the Republic's misery, took a touch off Kelleher en route to the top corner.
Latvia almost took the lead less than a minute into the second half when Gutkovskis fired over when well placed.
Ferguson, still brimming with confidence despite the Latvian fightback, fired narrowly over from 25 yards and Uldrikis attempted to repeat his first-half effort but Kelleher was equal to it.
Mikey Johnston, who changed allegiance from Scotland, was introduced for his debut in the second half along with Ogbene in the 64th minute and the substitutes made an immediate impact.
Johnston struck the post after a driving run at the Latvian defence 45 seconds after coming on and Ogbene reacted quickest to tap into the unguarded net.
Tiring after taking a couple of knocks, Ferguson was given a standing ovation as he was replaced by Troy Parrott with 18 minutes to play.
Johnston introduced himself to the Irish support with a lively performance and he almost capped with a goal after some mesmerising footwork but his effort was well blocked by the scrambling Latvian defence.
While there were positives in the win - most notably Ferguson, Smallbone and Johnston - manager Kenny knows his side will have to improve as World Cup finalists France travel to Dublin on Monday in the Republic's opening Euro 2024 qualifier.
The Irish are underdogs to reach the finals with the Netherlands, Greece and minnows Gibraltar to come in Group B.