The Republic of Ireland earned a credible result on Saturday evening as they drew 0-0 with Denmark in the first leg of their 2018 World Cup play-off in Copenhagen.
Martin O’Neill’s men were well-drilled on the night and defended stoutly to notch a stalemate at the Telia Parken. The hosts were dominant in possession but were simply not able to find the back of the net. Both teams head to the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday night with an excellent chance of reaching next summer’s showpiece tournament.
Randolph rescues Republic
Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph proved to be crucial in the early stages. As both teams settled into the game, it was the hosts who created the best opportunity in the 14th minute. Latching onto a long ball, Jens Stryger Larsen attempted to volley home from a tight angle but the stopper did well to parry the ball away. It fell to former Cardiff City striker Andreas Cornelius though, but again Randolph reacted well to save and maintain the score.
The Middlesbrough keeper was comfortable later on though as he collected Christian Eriksen’s low shot from range. He was also confident in watching a drive from Nicolai Jørgensen drift wide from 25 yards.
The Irish goalkeeper was fortunate with his next intervention however as Denmark looked destined to open the scoring. Randolph parried Eriksen’s effort straight into the path of Pione Sisto, the Celta Vigo forward though fluffed his lines as his shot skimmed just inches wide when unmarked in the penalty area.
Ireland go close on stroke of half-time
With the interval drawing closer, Ireland did eventually carve out an opportunity for themselves. Cyrus Christie displayed good speed to race into the penalty area and attempted to chip Kasper Schmeichel in the Danish goal, the Leicester City stopper though stopped his attempt well. Jeff Hendrick also waited too long to strike at goal and his shot was blocked.
Despite Denmark’s relative dominance in Copenhagen, the two teams went into half-time level.
Cagey affair in Copenhagen
The second-half however did not kick-off in the same vein. The clash descended into a scrappy affair as both teams pushed hard for a winning goal for the return clash in Ireland. Åge Hareide introduced Yussuf Poulsen for Cornelius mid-way through second period and he nearly made the desired effect but his close-range shot bounced wide of Randolph’s net.
Meanwhile, Martin O’Neill substituted the struggling Daryl Murphy for fellow forward Shane Long. A flurry of Irish free-kicks eventually came to nothing with substitute Niklas Bendtner being let off for a foul on Bournemouth midfielder Harry Arter.
Both teams push for winner in final moments
The visitors continued to defend well throughout the final throws and could even have snatched a late winner at the Telia Parken. Robbie Brady produced an excellent cross to find the head of Shane Duffy before Schmeichel gathered easily.
Denmark could well have been going into the second-leg with the advantage as they were presented with two wonderful chances in the final few seconds. Larsen crossed to Poulsen but the striker was unlucky to see his powerful header deflected over by Randolph. Bendtner then found space at the back post in the final minute from a corner but could only drag his effort wide without conviction.
The hosts continued to probe but could simply not find the winner and both sides head to Dublin level.
All for Denmark’s domination in the first half of the clash in Copenhagen, they did not resume with the same excitement in the second period. They were prominent in possession but really failed to test the Irish defence enough to snatch the win.
The visitors meanwhile were well-drilled and performed well against an arguably stronger opponent. Randolph had to be at his best to preserve the draw in the first-half but Ireland were well worth their draw in the end and head home with an excellent chance of reaching the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Denmark: Schmeichel (6); Stryger Larsen (7), Bjelland (7), Kjær (7), Ankersen (7); Eriksen (8), Kvist (7), Delaney (5); Sisto (6) (Bendtner (6), 72′) , Cornelius (7) (Poulsen (7), 64′), Jørgensen (6).
Republic of Ireland: Randolph (8); Christie (7), Duffy (7), Clark (6), Ward (6); O’Dowda (6), Arter (5) (Whelan (N/A), 88′); Brady (7), Hendrick (7) (Hourihane (N/A), 90+3′), McClean (6); Murphy (5) (Long (6), 74′).
Referee: Milorad Mažić
Yellow Cards: N/A
Red Cards: N/A
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