07 Jun 19
The Irish Sun
SOMETIMES it pays to be an irritant.
Ireland got what could prove to be a very important point on the road to Euro 2020 qualification in Denmark by, once again, annoying their hosts.
Shane Duffy celebrates the equaliser
Ireland sit top of Group D after a 1-1 draw with Denmark
The familiarity of the four meetings since November 2017 have bred contempt with Danish midfielder Thomas Delaney this week describing Ireland as an “annoying” team to face.
And that is a badge of honour for Mick McCarthy’s men now as Shane Duffy’s header five minutes from time cancelled out Pierre Emile Hojbjerg’s one nine minutes earlier to earn a draw.
It could prove vital in Group D too.
With Gibraltar and Georgia the must-win games, who takes the two qualifying spots is likely to come down head-to-heads between Ireland, Denmark and Switzerland should decide it.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg had opened the scoring
The Danes got a great draw against Switzerland when coming from 3-0 down in March which was certainly a big plus for them.
But another away draw in Denmark is a big positive on the Ireland balance sheet that will irritate the hell out of Denmark as, once again, they had the chances to win the game.
McCarthy’s Ireland is different to Martin O’Neill’s and do try and attack. Yet this result was earned thanks to what O’Neill relied on, defending and set-pieces.
Ireland had to defend for long periods and rode their luck at times but had done a fine job of that for 76 minutes.
Only for Hojbjerg to seemingly ruin it when he raced in to glance home Kasper Dolberg’s left wing cross.
But, whereas previous Ireland teams may have caved at that, McCarthy’s one did not and fought back through big Duffy.
Jeff Hendrick won a free kick on the right and substitute Alan Judge whipping in a delightful cross that Duffy rose highest to power home.
James McClean could have earned the three points with a classic smash and grab late on only for Kasper Schmeichel to save.
Ireland fans delighted with the result
But Denmark may not have coped if Ireland annoyed their way to a win. Still, the Ireland fans could enjoy rubbing their noses in it.
Having been forced to watch highlights of that 5-1 World Cup play-off loss on the big screen – complete with the commentator laughing – before kick-off, it had to be done.
Also, those fans who were bored by the previous draws in Denmark also saw plenty to shout out as Ireland did actually try to play on the front foot.
Whether it was Seamus Coleman controlling a long ball on his chest to play out rather than heading it, Enda Stevens volleying a difficult cross field pass or Shane Duffy’s drag back, it was all heartening.
It nearly led to an early Duffy goal too. McClean won a free on the left and the dead ball delivery by Conor Hourihane was outstanding as Duffy, falling backwards turned the ball goalwards.
Somehow, Schmeichel kept it out and then got his hands on the ball even as Duffy landed beside him and tried to hook the ball in.
It was a real let off for Denmark though, even by then, they were beginning to get to grips with Ireland’s pressing to exploit some big gaps. For those, there was big Duffy.
The giant centre half is effectively like a second goalkeeper whenever midfielders line up shots from the edge of the area.
If Christian Eriksen et al was going to beat Darren Randolph, he first had to get the ball past the 6ft 5in wall!
Duffy kept showing his worth making a big block from Martin Braithwaite on 25 minutes after he found himself in far too much space to get on the end of a Lasse Schone pass.
Later, they were an outstanding tackle on Eriksen as he moved into shooting position on the edge of the area when the Ireland cover had been ripped apart.
Mick McCarthy and technical advisor Dave Bowman after the game
Earlier, he had got his head on some dangerous crosses while Randolph was also looking composed – sometimes too composed as he delayed over back passes – behind him.
Eriksen had an early free kick palmed behind for a corner by Randolph while he later made a pretty routine save from Braithwaite after he had ran unopposed towards his goal.
Randolph made a big save on 53 minutes when Yussef Poulsen latched onto a Nicolai Jorgensen pass between Enda Stevens and Richard Keogh, then wrong footed Duffy with a side step but not Randolph who stood tall to turn away his shot.
Seconds later, Ireland could have gone in front. McGoldrick led a break away before picking out Robbie Brady on the right whose perfect pass found McClean unmarked on the left.
The winger had time take a touch before unleashing a powerful drive but Schmeichel was alert at his near post and turned his shot away for a corner.
From that phase of play, McGoldrick headed onto the roof of the net but any notion that Ireland were getting on top was ended second later when Eriksen drilled a shot inches over the crossbar.
Poulsen was then close to breaking the deadlock when he ran from half way at the back peddling Ireland defence with his shot deflected inches wide by Hourihane.
Braithwaite then fired over after some more good play from Denmark which had Ireland fans beginning to glance nervously at the stadium block with 29 minutes still remaining.
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Ireland were nearly masters of their own downfall when a misplaced Duffy header put Jorgensen through on 63 minutes but he lifted his shot over the bar.
Yet, just as Ireland had the finish line in sight, Denmark scored through Hojbjerg that should have had them home and hosed.
But what the Danes should have known is that annoying teams just keep coming back to annoy you and Duffy did the damage five minutes from time.