Ben Brady/INPHO An aerial view of Ogbene's goal.
deadly duo
Ireland falling in love with Ogbene as Robinson works wonders in 14 seconds
The Rotherham United man scored one sensational goal and played a crucial role in the second equaliser late in the game as Ireland battled against Belgium.

LAST UPDATE | Mar 26th 2022, 8:30 PM


He put it all out there before a ball was kicked this week.

There is no subterfuge with Chiedozie Ogbene.

It’s right there in the open.

The speed, the smile, the quality.

Ireland is falling in love with Chiedozie Ogbene, and there is still so much more to come.

The 24-year-old told us that he is a runner. How he covers about 11 kilometres per game for Rotherham United and how one kilometre of that would be high speed, intense sprinting.

“I’m a power athlete,” he said in midweek.

It showed. Oh how it showed, just as this game looked as if it was beginning to drift away from Ireland.

chiedozie-ogbene-kneels-at-the-final-whistle Ben Brady / INPHO A shattered Ogbene at full time. Ben Brady / INPHO / INPHO

Before we even touch on his sublime overhead goal – a vision of technical excellence and composure that shows why manager Stephen Kenny insists he can play much higher than League One – the part he played in setting up Alan Browne’s header five minutes from time to secure a 2-2 draw cannot be underplayed.

It deserves more than to be lost amid the superlatives to describe his goal.

He watched Matt Doherty stride forward to prevent Belgium passing out from the back easily. The Tottenham Hotspur full back nicked possession of the ball and then played it forward towards the corner flag.

With limbs weary and minds tired, Ogbene remained alert. He sprinted to the ball, kept it in by the finest of threads, then did what every top class player does in big moments.

He lifted his head.

He surveyed what was in front of him in the box. He set himself for the cross, the full back didn’t have the same determination to stop him from delivering, and he did so with pin-point precision, placing the ball on Browne’s head as he strode to meet with equally impressive timing.

callum-robinson-and-jason-denayer Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

This is the kind of forward Ireland need, someone capable of leading the line until the last whistle, of making those around him in green believe a chance will come.

The fact he is used as a right wing back by Rotherham just illustrates further his adaptability and intelligence, someone capable of taking instructions and carrying them out, as well as possessing lethal instincts.

“I knew he would be a real threat,” Stephen Kenny said. “It’s been a spectacular start to score three goals [in six caps].

We see him as a forward player. He just, apart from the goals, he gives us so much. We ask some players to elevate their performances above club form and that’s what we need. That’s what we need them them to do and Chiedozie is doing that.”

Scoring late goals is not a bad habit to get into.

Kenny’s Ireland are developing one now it seems.

They did so here against Serbia during World Cup qualifying – netting in the 86th minute, although this one came a few seconds earlier – and of course this was only a friendly against what was effectively Belgium’s B Team.

But as the Ireland manager sets about instilling a new confidence and belief in this country, this was another indication that he is on the right track.

Unearthing a gem like Ogbene, and providing him with the platform to showcase his ability will only serve to make people care even more about the work being done.

alan-browne-celebrates-after-scoring-a-goal-with-callum-robinson-and-ryan-manning Ben Brady / INPHO Robinson leaps into Alan Browne's arms after the latter's goal. Ben Brady / INPHO / INPHO

Not that it was perfect.

The visitors had it all their own way for the first 35 minutes. Their goal in the 12th minute through Michy Batshuayi was top class, and just reward for setting the tone early.

But then Ireland showed they’re not a group that will wilt. A trait that will bode well for bigger and more important tests to come this year.

The tone for the first equaliser was set by John Egan being aggressive in his pressing from left centre-back. With Ireland finding rare joy in the attacking third, Callum Robinson then made his first telling contribution of the evening.

The next 14 seconds summed up what he offers, and how his movement his crucial to getting even more from Ireland’s attack.

Robinson turned up on the right flank after Egan’s surge, clipping a ball over for the top for Doherty, who did well to hook a cross into the box.

chiedozie-ogbene-scores-a-goal An aerial view of Ogbene's goal.

The West Brom man didn’t stand and admire his pass. He stayed moving, picking up the ball in the centre 18 yards out and then drifting to the left to stand up a cross to the back post.

Shane Duffy had remained in attack and as his header bounced away from goal it seemed as if the danger was gone. That is when Ogbene came alive, taking one touch to set himself and having the awareness to realise he could, before producing a sublime overhead kick to bring Ireland level.

There was still 10 minutes to go in the first half and his running next stopped.

He went right until the end.

The power athlete with a delicate, ruthless touch.

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