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Late Duffy header gives imperfect Ireland a vital draw in Copenhagen

The defender’s late header earned Ireland the point which their manager craved.

Shane Duffy celebrates his late equaliser.
Shane Duffy celebrates his late equaliser.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Gavin Cooney reports from the Parken Stadium, Copenhagen 

Denmark 1

Republic of Ireland 1

IRELAND OFTEN GIVE the impression of seeing football as a kind of tired, ritual foreplay leading to the raw gratification we are all in this for – the belligerent hurling of Shane Duffy’s head at a set piece.

But when it feels this good – who cares? 

It was Duffy’s 85th-minute header from Alan Judge’s perfect cross that earned Ireland a precious point in Copenhagen, keeping Denmark at arm’s length in Group D in the process. 

Denmark and Ireland spent the build-up to this game fretting about Duffy’s aerial ability and Christian Eriksen’s general brilliance, but only the Danes were undone by what they expected, with Eriksen arguably at his best when he didn’t have the ball. 

Mick McCarthy cast Glenn Whelan in the Shane Ross role, briefed to shadow Eriksen’s every move. As a result, Ireland struggled when Eriksen dragged their midfield out of shape.

Denmark were adept at exploiting the vacated space in front of the Irish defence, with wide forwards Martin Braithwaite and Yussuf Poulsen drifting inside; their direct running causing Ireland a series of problems, and forcing Darren Randolph into a terrific one-on-one save and Shane Duffy into a splayed, last-ditch block.

That Eriksen was uninvolved in the Danish goal, then, was fitting.  

Left-back Stryger Larsen was allowed too much space to sling a cross into the area, where substitute Pierre Emile Hojbjerg timed his arrival perfectly to nod the ball into the net ahead of Richard Keogh.

Minutes earlier, Styrger Larsen was on the end of an ear-lashing from Seamus Coleman.

Having fouled Jeff Hendrick, the Danish player then belted the ball into the prone midfielder, to which the Irish captain responded by sprinting 15 yards to grab Stryger Larsen and grapple him from the pitch. 

Familiarity has certainly bred a least a little contempt in this fixture with Coleman, usually a meek and uncontroversial figure in the build up to games, moved ahead of this game to say that Denmark’s various verbal digs weren’t to his taste. 

The Danes, meanwhile, either ignorant of our deep psychological scars or just happy to massage them further, ran through the highlights of the 5-1 play-off defeat on the big screens inside the ground ahead of kick-off, as a man over the PA system literally laughed out loud. 

Seamus Coleman has words with Jens Stryger Larsen Coleman clashes with Stryger Larsen. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Denmark will feel they did more than enough to win this game, with Braithwaite and Delaney spurning a couple of great second-half chances before Hojbjerg found the net.

Duffy, meanwhile, denied Eriksen a first-half goal with a stunning slide tackle inside his own area. 

After they equalised, Ireland suddenly found their attacking groove, and Schmeichel rushed from his goal to deny McClean a mad, ecstatic winner in injury time. 

McCarthy was unabashed in saying he wanted a draw from this game, and while the result and the intangible virtues in securing it will delight him, he will be concerned by his side’s attacking performance for vast swathes of it. 

Ireland didn’t do enough in possession, and while they occasionally looked dangerous when passing the ball to McGoldrick’s feet, too often they resorted to O’NeillBall, in which clearances were hacked carelessly into the channels for McGoldrick to chase. 

Of the few that landed close to him, he was usually offside. Much of Ireland’s build-up in the first-half came clunkily down the left-wing, where Enda Stevens and McClean linked with all the easy fluidity of a door creaking on rusted hinges. But those are concerns for another day. 

The evening ended on an unfortunate note for Judge, who broke his wrist in the game’s final challenge, and lay receiving treatment in front of the delirious Irish fans at full-time. 

The way in which  Ireland stole a point will only grow the positivity glowing from this team and its manager, and as the Euro 2020 hovers into view – that will be vital. 

Denmark: Kasper Schmeichel; Henrik Dalsgaard, Andreas Christiansen, Simon Kjaer (c), Jens Stryger Larsen; Lasse Schone (Pierre Emile Hojbjerg 72′), Thomas Delaney, Christian Eriksen; Yussuf Poulsen, Nicolai Jorgensen, Martin Braithwaite (Kasper Dolberg 61′)

Republic of Ireland: Darren Randolph; Seamus Coleman (c), Shane Duffy, Richard Keogh, Enda Stevens; Glenn Whelan, Conor Hourihane (Scott Hogan 82′) Robbie Brady (Alan Judge 65′), Jeff Hendrick, James McClean; David McGoldrick (Callum Robinson 87′)

Referee: Cunyet Cakir  

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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