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Dublin: 2 °C Wednesday 19 February, 2020

Goalless draw in Denmark sees Ireland fail to score for a fourth game in a row

Ireland held the Danes in Aarhus on a night which featured an international debut for Michael Obafemi.

Denmark 0
Republic of Ireland 0

Paul Dollery reports from Ceres Park, Aarhus

THE REPUBLIC OF Ireland avoided defeat this evening in Aarhus, but their final outing of 2018 did nothing to lift the increasingly gloomy mood surrounding the national team.

Jeff Hendrick with Lasse Schone Ireland's Jeff Hendrick under pressure from Lasse Schöne of Denmark. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Operating for most of the game in an apparent 3-5-1-1 formation — which resembled a 5-4-1 more often than not — Martin O’Neill’s team were set up to preserve another clean sheet. That objective was achieved at the expense of any intention to score a goal, something they now haven’t managed to do for four consecutive games.

This was a competitive fixture with nothing immediately at stake. Denmark’s place atop Group B4 in the inaugural Uefa Nations League was already secure, as was Ireland’s at the bottom. In that context, credit must go to the 1,000 or so Irish supporters who travelled to Denmark’s second city and made most of the noise in spite of their team’s ongoing decline.

Captain Seamus Coleman had called for Ireland to “man up” and “take responsibility” for their performances, yet this was merely more of the same from Martin O’Neill’s side. While the workrate couldn’t be faulted, offensive quality was in short supply.

O’Neill made five changes to the team that started Thursday’s goalless draw with Northern Ireland. Richard Keogh, Kevin Long, Cyrus Christie, Enda Stevens and Aiden O’Brien came in for Darragh Lenihan, John Egan (injured), Glenn Whelan, James McClean (suspended) and Callum Robinson.

The Danish side also showed five adjustments from their 2-1 win in Wales on Friday. Among their notable absentees were captain Simon Kjaer, who hasn’t played since last month due to injury, and suspended duo Kasper Schmeichel and Thomas Delaney.

Martin O’Neill Ireland manager Martin O'Neill on the touchline. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

After a moment of silence was observed as a mark of respect for the Ireland supporter who lost his life in Copenhagen yesterday, the absence of any tangible reward on offer for either team was reflected by the lack of intensity during the opening exchanges.

As Ireland set out their stall by sitting deep inside their own half, Denmark controlled the possession and tempo but without posing any initial problems for Darren Randolph. Kevin Long and Cyrus Christie squandered possession in dangerous positions on a couple of occasions early on, but the Danes failed to punish the visitors for their sloppiness.

During a rare jaunt into the final third, Ireland caused a slightly nervy moment for Denmark on 13 minutes when Mathias Jørgensen had to be alert to nick the ball away from Seamus Coleman following a scramble in the box.

The only other notable piece of action in front of the Danish goal in the first half saw Ireland awarded a free-kick for a foul on Callum O’Dowda by Lasse Schöne. Robbie Brady’s effort struck the side netting, but goalkeeper Frederik Rønnow always had it covered.

Shane Duffy made an important intervention to deny Nicolai Jørgensen in the 16th minute, before Randolph was eventually called into action on the half-hour mark when Yussuf Poulsen headed straight at the Ireland goalkeeper after being picked out by Schone.

Ireland fans display 'Delaney Out' signs in the crowd Ireland fans at Ceres Park. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The closest Denmark came to a first-half goal was in the 40th minute. Christian Eriksen released Peter Ankersen on the right, his shot was parried by Randolph, but Coleman was on hand to make a vital block as Nicolai Jørgensen sought to turn in the rebound.

Eriksen — who was withdrawn at half-time — went close just before the break, but the Tottenham Hotspur playmaker’s well-struck free-kick sailed just over the crossbar.

The second half continued in a similar vein, with Denmark growing frustrated as Ireland held firm while simultaneously failing to conjure a single attempt on goal.

Poulsen should have put the hosts ahead just over a minute after the restart but he volleyed over from close range. Randolph was finally beaten in the 68th minute, only for Nicolai Jørgensen to see his effort hit the woodwork after the Feyenoord striker had robbed Richard Keogh of possession. The rebound fell to substitute Lukas Lerager, who fired over.

Michael Obafemi was introduced for his international debut with 10 minutes remaining. As Denmark’s dominance continued, opportunities for the 18-year-old Southampton striker to make an impact were scarce, although he was eager to make things happen and showed a couple of decent touches.

Michael Obafemi makes his debut Michael Obafemi comes on for his Ireland debut. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

In conclusion, the result counted for little. Whether another dismal performance has consequences for Martin O’Neill remains to be seen. The fans who braved the cold to show their support to the Ireland players after the final whistle certainly deserve more.

DENMARK: Frederik Rønnow; Peter Ankersen, Mathias Jørgensen, Andreas Bjelland, Jonas Knudsen; Lasse Schöne, Pierre Emile Højbjerg; Yussuf Poulsen (Christian Gytkjaer, 65), Christian Eriksen (captain) (Lukas Lerager, HT), Martin Braithwaite (Andreas Cornelius, 78); Nicolai Jørgensen.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Darren Randolph; Richard Keogh, Shane Duffy, Kevin Long; Seamus Coleman (captain), Cyrus Christie, Jeff Hendrick, Robbie Brady (Callum Robinson, 65), Enda Stevens; Callum O’Dowda (Michael Obafemi, 80); Aiden O’Brien (Ronan Curtis, 65).

Referee: Aliyar Aghayev (Azerbaijan)

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About the author:

Paul Dollery

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