Darren Randolph was the hero and Pione Sisto the villain as the Republic of Ireland scrapped their way to a 0-0 World Cup play-off draw in Denmark.
Randolph produced a fine double save to deny Jens Stryger Larsen and Andreas Cornelius, and then saw Sisto fire wide of an open goal after he had beaten away Christian Eriksen’s long-range effort during a torrid first half.
Ireland, as so often in the past, adopted an ultra-conservative approach which saw them create little of note, but they frustrated the Danes and the majority of a crowd of 36,189 at the Parken Stadium for much of a largely unappetising 90 minutes with a functional display.
What they said
Republic of Ireland boss Martin O’Neill: “The players put a big effort into the game. It would have been great if we could have scored a goal, but I think the game is evenly poised for the second leg.”Denmark manager Age Hareide: “We created enough chances to win the game, at least three big chances. But we have to get the ball in between the posts, that’s always important. If we play like this in Dublin, we win.”
Tweet of the match
Star man – Darren Randolph
Ireland’s clean sheet owed much to their goalkeeper. Randolph repelled a number of efforts, including pulling off a fine double save to deny Jens Stryger Larsen and Andreas Cornelius and tipping over Yussuf Poulsen’s late header.
Moment of the match
Memorable moments were at a premium but a potentially crucial point in the two-legged tie came in the 34th minute when Denmark winger Pione Sisto wasted a big opportunity. The unmarked Celta Vigo player somehow fired wide of an unguarded net from 12 yards after Randolph parried Christian Eriksen’s initial effort following a mistake by Ciaran Clark.
Moan of the match
While a draw will be greeted as a positive result by the majority of Ireland fans, the quality of the match was very poor and almost a non-event. Martin O’Neill’s negative tactics contributed heavily to the dull contest as Ireland kept numerous men behind the ball while offering very little attacking threat. However, with a place at a first World Cup finals since 2002 at stake, the cautious approach was perhaps understandable.
Ahead of the return leg in Dublin on Tuesday, Ireland are now five games unbeaten against Denmark, winning twice and drawing on three occasions. Their last defeat came in November 1985.
RatingsRepublic of Ireland: Darren Randolph 8 (out of 10), Cyrus Christie: 6, Shane Duffy: 7, Ciaran Clark: 6, Stephen Ward: 6, Harry Arter: 6, Jeff Hendrick: 6, Callum O’Dowda: 6, Robbie Brady: 7, James McClean: 6, Daryl Murphy: 5. Subs: Shane Long (for Murphy, 74 mins): 6, Glenn Whelan (for Arter, 88 mins): 5, Conor Hourihane (for Hendrick, 90 mins): 6.
Who’s up next?
Republic of Ireland v Denmark (World Cup play-off second leg, Dublin, November 14).