Shane Duffy’s towering header makes Ireland’s point just fine
Centre back scores late equaliser as Mick McCarthy’s side earn draw in Copenhagen
Shane Duffy heads home Ireland’s equaliser during the Euro 2020 qualifier against Denmark at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen. Photograph: Bradley Collyer/PA Wire
Denmark 1 Republic of Ireland 1
Another draw in Denmark where Shane Duffy’s headed equaliser late on gave Ireland a point they are bound to feel they deserved for the way they hung in there for most of the night, then saved themselves when they had to.
The challenge now will be to ensure there is no repeat of November 2017 when Age Hareide and co, come to Dublin towards the end of this year for what may well prove to be another winner-takes-all qualification playoff of sorts.
The hosts were certainly the better side for decent stretches here and will wonder how they didn’t take a couple more of the many chances they created before Pierre Emile Hojbjerg eventually put them in front 17 minutes from time.
A few of their own supporters booed them at the end as the travelling ones celebrated a point that had a whiff of the one earned in Germany in October 2014 about it. That also came courtesy of a late equaliser and it was Ireland’s third game of a campaign, following on from defeats of Georgia and Gibraltar.
Ireland, though, could actually have won this game in the end with James McClean driving a low shot at Kasper Schmeichel at 1-1 when he seemed set to do better. Second-half substitute Alan Judge had started the break that gave rise to the opportunity with a quick bit of thinking not far from his own area and it was a very good night for the Dubliner, who had teed up the goal, but it ended with more misfortune as he suffered a broken wrist in the dying seconds.
If Ireland’s pressing gameplan hadn’t been known beforehand it would have been entirely apparent from the opening moments here as McClean clattered into Henrik Dalsgaard for the first time and David McGoldrick and Robbie Brady pursued the home side’s centre backs, Simon Kjaer and Christian Christensen, almost to the edge of their own penalty area.
Seeing them lurk within striking distance of the defenders not long after as Schmeichel sought to take a short kick-out was something to behold, but the pressure paid early dividends as the Danes struggled slightly to find the rhythm required to give them a measure of real control over the game.
Still, they settled better in the end than Ireland, who worked hard to disrupt without displaying enough composure when in possession themselves. When Brady misplaced what looked a straightforward pass to Jeff Hendrick at one point, the team suddenly looked to be in trouble and the situation required a terrific tackle by Enda Stevens on Yussuf Poulsen
But carelessness was common enough at potentially important moments with a good Conor Hourihane run beyond right back Dalsgaard undone when McGoldrick’s attempted through ball crashed straight into the defender. Duffy did much the same when trying to tee up the striker after initially doing well to mop up at the back.
The big Derryman made some important contributions over the course of those first 45 minutes, almost scoring at one end when, having got the wrong side of Hourihane’s free from the left, he sought to hook the ball home only to end up blocking it himself. He then produced a wonderfully timed challenge to prevent Christian Eriksen getting a shot away from the edge of the area.
Predictably, though, Eriksen was to prove a huge influence on the course of the evening and started to cause the visitors real problems as he sat and drew midfielders towards him at the midway point of the opening half.
Repeatedly, the effect was to create space in front of the McCarthy back four which Poulsen and Martin Braithwaite tore into at every opportunity. Time after time, the Tottenham star picked them out and the fact that neither man scored was largely down to a combination of determined defending and desperately poor finishing by the locals.
By the time Braithwaite and Nicolai Jorgensen missed back-to-back chances with wildly misplaced efforts just over an hour in, it was hard to tell whether a Danish goal was simply inevitable or Ireland coming away with a positive result was somehow written in the stars.
It turned out to be the both.
For all the pressure they exerted, when it eventually came, the Danish goal still had a slight sense of being conjured out of nothing. The Irish had plenty of bodies in the box as Jens Stryger Larsen whipped the ball in from the left. But Richard Keogh was wrong-footed slightly by his timing and as the Derby defender strained to head clear while struggling to stop shuffling backwards Hojbjerg stole in ahead of him to turn the ball home from eight yards.
Ireland’s task suddenly shifted to salvaging something and having already brought on Judge, McCarthy introduced Scott Hogan to bolster his frontline.
Barely before the second striker was on the pitch, though, Judge had won a free that he then whipped in perfectly for Duffy to attack at close range. Behind the goal, the travelling supporters exploded into celebration as the Danes sought to figure out precisely what had hit them.
They will doubtless still feel they are capable of winning in Dublin but McCarthy knows his own team will be better by then. They might well have to be but Copenhagen, on this occasion, still goes down as a mission accomplished.
DENMARK: Schmeichel (Leicester City); Dalgaard (Brentford), Kjaer (Seville), Christensen (Chelsea), Stryger (Udinese); Schöne (Ajax), Eriksen (Tottenham), Delaney (Borussia Dortmund); Poulsen (Leipzig), Jorgensen (Feyenoord), Brathwaite (Leganés).
Subs: Dolberg (Ajax) for Braithwaite (65 mins), Hojbjerg (Southampton) for Schöne (72 mins).
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Randolph (Middlesbrough); Coleman (Everton), Duffy (Brighton), Keogh (Derby County), Stevens (Shefffield United); Hendrick (Burnley), Whelan (Aston Villa), Hourihane (Aston Villa); Brady (Burnley), McGoldrick (Sheffield United), McClean (Stoke City).
Subs: Judge (Ipswich Town) for Brady (67 mins), Hogan (Aston Villa) for Hourihane (82 mins), Robinson (Preston North End) for McGoldrick (88 mins).
Referee: C Cakir (Turkey).