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Ireland 2-2 Belgium

Hello, and welcome to today’s liveblog.

It should be an intriguing encounter between Ireland and what is, in all honesty, a largely second-string Belgium team.

The visitors do still have some superb players at their disposal — the likes of Youri Tielemans, Thorgan Hazard and Michy Batshuayi would be good enough to get into most international teams.

It should therefore be a good test for Stephen Kenny’s Ireland, as they look to build on their recent improvement in form.

Kenny has opted for what is probably as strong an XI as he has out of the players available to him, so Ireland clearly want to win this game with world ranking points at stake, while more experimentation will be expected against Lithuania on Tuesday.

We’re underway…

It’s been a fairly scrappy start.

Both sides have given the ball away cheaply on more than one occasion, with no real chances yet.

Some good pressing from Ireland early on has rendered Belgium fairly ineffectual so far.

The visitors have seen plenty of the ball, but haven’t got near the Ireland goal yet.

Out of nothing, Belgium go ahead.

The ball is played to Michy Batshuayi on the edge of the area.

Seamus Coleman can’t go close enough to him and he curls an unstoppable shot past Kelleher and into the corner of the net.

Belgium go close to making it two.

A low cross from De Ketelaere finds Batshuayi. Josh Cullen gets a block on his goalbound shot and it’s deflected just over.

Signs of frustration from Ireland as James McClean clatters into De Ketelaere.

The hosts haven’t really got going at all in an attacking sense, with the Belgians increasingly dominant.

Batshuayi finds the side netting with a first-time shot from the edge of the area after good work from Hazard in the build-up.

Belgium have grown in confidence since the goal, while Ireland haven’t really imposed themselves on the game at all.

Ireland’s main problem at the moment is they can’t really get the ball off Belgium for a sustained period.

As I type, James McClean puts in a cross, but it’s easily cleared.

Good work from Ireland down the left, before Jason Knight miscues his cross.

Moments later, a McClean shot is deflected wide for a corner.

Better from the hosts.

Knight gets a touch on a Robinson cross before it falls to Ogebene.

With his back to goal, the attacker takes a touch before producing a spectacular bicycle kick that finds the net.

Ireland are right back in this game now.

The momentum seems to be with Ireland now.

As I type, Robinson finds himself in a promising position, but he makes a mess of an attempted cross, putting the ball straight out of play.

Good link-up play from Ireland down the left ends with McClean’s cross being deflected out of play.

They look much more confident since the goal.

Ogbene gets tripped as he threatens to burst through on goal.

Cullen’s subsequent free-kick goes straight into the hands of Mignolet.

According to the Uefa stats, Ireland had 39% possession in that first half.

Meanwhile, both teams have had a single attempt on target, and took full advantage of it in both cases.

And here’s a look at Belgium’s goal…

Belgium make a change at the break.

Thomas Foket is on in place of Alexis Saelemaekers.

The second half has begun…

So close for Ireland!

Knight plays it across goal for Robinson, but the defender gets there first.

It then falls to McClean, whose shot is prodded on by Robinson but it’s cleared off the line.

Ireland are starting the second half as they ended the first.

Knight is played through from an excellent Hendrick ball.

It’s a tight angle though, and his shot deflects wide off a defender.

Not too much of note has happened in recent minutes.

The game is becoming slightly more open as both sides inevitably begin to tire.

Vanaken’s header from a Hazard corner takes a wicked deflection off Coleman and goes into the net.

It’s frustrating from an Irish viewpoint, as they had looked relatively comfortable up until that point in the second half.

Robinson shows great skill to evade his marker Denayer, before Mignolet parries his low shot.

Moments later, Knight almost finds Doherty with a through ball but a last-ditch challenge forces a corner.

Ireland are enjoying a decent spell at the moment, as they’ve pinned Belgium back into their half.

No sign of any changes from Kenny.

As I type, Hendrick drags a shot well wide after good patient build-up play from Ireland.

Here’s a look at the second Belgium goal…

Foket curls a shot well off target after a rare enough spell of Belgium pressure.

There’s been very little between the sides in this second half — the visitors have just been slightly more clinical.

There are a couple of subs now.

For Belgium, Adnan Januzaj and Orel Mangala come on for Arthur Theate and Charles De Ketelaere.

Ireland also make a double change — Alan Browne and Will Keane replace Jason Knight and Jeff Hendrick.

Robinson’s cross finds Ogbene, but it’s slightly too high for him and he can’t get a proper connection on the header.

13 minutes of normal time remaining for Ireland to find an equaliser.

Doherty’s through ball deflects for Will Keane.

He goes down under a challenge from Boyata, but the referee points for a corner only, much to the crowd’s annoyance.

Ireland, meanwhile, make another change with Ryan Manning on in place of McClean.

Cullen’s corner disappointingly goes straight into Mignolet’s hands.

Duffy fell awkwardly as he went for the ball and is holding his back, but he should be okay to continue.

Another change for Belgium.

Batshuayi looks to have picked up a knock and is replaced by Christian Benteke.

Ireland equalise! Ogbene puts it in an inviting cross and the substitute Alan Browne leaps magnificently to find the corner of the net with a bullet header.

Can they now find a winner?

There will be two minutes of stoppage time…

Another Ireland change.

Troy Parrot comes on for Callum Robinson.

Moments before, Ireland had a half-chance as Doherty’s cross forced Mignolet to parry but the flag had gone up for offside anyway.

Meanwhile, Ogbene has just deservedly been named man of the match.

So that’s that.

2-2 is probably a fair result on reflection.

Both sides had decent spells and the game was fairly evenly fought.

It was a decent day’s work for Kenny’s side in what was a solid performance overall against the team ranked number one in the world, even if they were missing some key players.

With a goal and an assist, man-of-the-match Ogbene in particular will emerge from this game with plenty of credit.

Callum Robinson also impressed, while Josh Cullen used the ball well in midfield and impact sub Alan Browne did his cause no harm at all with a well-taken goal.

Ultimately, it’s another indication that the team are going in the right direction under Kenny, while a few defensive lapses and some sloppy passages of play indicate there is also plenty of work to be done still.

Here’s a look at that late Irish equaliser…

alan-browne-celebrates-after-scoring-a-goal-with-callum-robinson-and-ryan-manning Ireland's Alan Browne celebrates after scoring a goal with Callum Robinson and Ryan Manning. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

Right, that’s all from me for now,

Thanks for reading and commenting, and stay tuned, as we’ll have plenty more reaction to follow.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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