Ireland hold Denmark to first leg stalemate
World Cup qualifying play-off, Telia Parken – Denmark 0 Ireland 0
In a devastatingly rancid game of association football, poor finishing from Denmark and excellent goalkeeping from Darren Randolph sneaked Ireland a goalless draw in Copenhagen.
But the visitors may come to rue the lack of an away goal, because if Denmark score once - something it is easy to envisage - they will need to score twice - something almost impossible to envisage.
Immediately after kick-off the game set into its pattern: Ireland sat off, Denmark probed. And on 11 minutes, Randolph made an excellent double-save from Styger Larsen and Andreas Cornelius, the latter of whom ought really to have scored. Then, on 32 minutes, Randolph saved again, this time from Pione Sisto, before Kasper Schmeichel foiled Cyrus Christie.
Almost nothing happened in the second half, but then just before time, Larsen crossed and Yussuf Poulsen headed firmly, but straight at Randolph, who tipped over.
So the teams are level going to the Aviva where, though we will have to endure more of the same, it will at least end with one of these miserable sides experiencing severe misery.
Kasper Schmeichel and Andreas Bjelland of DenmarkGetty Images
Need Ireland be quite so terrible? Every time Ireland had a dead ball, they simply pumped it into the box, exactly what Denmark expected. And their prowess is not such that it didn't matter; perhaps at home, they might at least switch the angle and ask a different question of their opponents.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Darren Randolph (Ireland): Slim pickings, but Randolph made three decent saves to keep without which his team would have lost, perhaps conclusively.
Darren Randolph tips over the crossbarGetty Images
11’ - DOUBLE SAVE! Oh yes! Darren Randolph! Kjaer drills a fantastic crossfield pass from right to left, brilliantly controlled, in mid-air, by Stryger Larsen. It allows him to drill a shot, which Randolph gets down to, but can only put back into play! Cornelius is on it too, but goes for a firm sidefooter when laces or clever placement was required, and Randolph not only saves again, but holds on! Denmark are hitting a stride, though.
32’ - CLOSE! Fields of Athenrye is banging out ... and oh what a miss! Eriksen picks up a weak clearance from Clark and leathes a low shot which Randolph beats away ... hard enough so that the ball whizzes past those nearest to it, but straight to Sisto! He opens his body, relaxes into the shot, and guides it expertly inches past the post!
43’ - CHANCE! Superb from Christie, exploding past Larsen and nashing towards goal! But Schmeichel is out quickly, makes himself big - you might've seen the technique before - and blocks the shot, then Hendrick takes a touch when he ought to have hit it first time, and Ireland have a corner... which is useless.
89’ - NOPE... O'Dowda runs with it, Kvist hauls him down, free-kick Ireland, 45 yards from goal. Brady curls into the box, just what Denmark won't be expecting, Long flicks but from 12 yards, and Schmeichel saves easily.
90’ - BIG SAVE! Saaaaaaved Randolph! Larsen down the left, and what's this?! A decent cross! Poulsen is in the middle too, thumps a header goalwards, thinks he's scored .. but it's straight at Randolph, who tips over!
90+1’ - DRAMA! This is easily the best part of the game. Eriksen's free-kick is headed away, Larsen races towards the loose ball, and shoots ... Christie has a wild swing, and sends it behind him for a corner which comes to nothing.
Eriksen - Denmark-Ireland - FIFA 2018 World Cup playoff - Getty ImagesGetty Images
Ireland are unbeaten in all six away qualifiers, winning three and drawing three.