Saturday 21 April 2018

Ireland's capacity to frustrate is almost limitless - Five things we learned from Ireland's draw with Denmark

Stephen Ward of Republic of Ireland during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-off 1st Leg match between Denmark and Republic of Ireland at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
Stephen Ward of Republic of Ireland during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-off 1st Leg match between Denmark and Republic of Ireland at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The Republic of Ireland returned from Denmark with their World Cup hopes finely poised after the first leg of their play-off ended in stalemate.

Here, Press Association Sport's Damian Spellman takes a look at what we learned from a tight 90 minutes in Copenhagen.

1. Ireland's capacity to frustrate is almost limitless

Martin O'Neill apparently cut short his training session at the Parken Stadium on the eve of the game amid fears that Danish eyes were watching rather too closely. What the Danes might have learned that they did not already know is debatable, however, as the visitors set up as they so often do to defend deep and in numbers and trust themselves to repel whatever was thrown at them, which they did in pugnacious fashion.

2. Darren Randolph is rather good at what he does

The reason that Shay Given's retirement from international football has not been felt as deeply as that of Robbie Keane is because Ireland are better at preventing goals than they are at scoring them. Having edged ahead of Keiren Westwood, David Forde and Rob Elliot in recent years, Randolph has become an increasingly central figure and he produced three vital saves in Copenhagen to keep Denmark at bay.

3. There is more to come from Christian Eriksen

There were flashes of Tottenham schemer Eriksen's rich talent in the first leg, but fewer than coach Age Hareide might have hoped. However, Eriksen's club form suggests that if the Republic allow him time and space - something they did relatively infrequently on Saturday evening - in Dublin, he could punish them.

4. Pione Sisto may have trouble sleeping

It was after Eriksen has found himself with clear grass ahead of him at the Parken Stadium that he troubled Randolph with a swerving long-range effort, which the keeper managed to fend off, but only to wide-man Sisto. However, the Celta Vigo player rolled the ball inches past the post, a miss which may live with him for some time if Denmark do not progress.

5. Common sense does live on in football after all

Nineteen men - 10 of them Irish and nine Danes - went into the first leg on a booking and knowing a second would rule them out of the game at the Aviva Stadium. But despite presiding over a competitive encounter, Serbian referee Milorad Mazic kept his cards in his pocket to allow all 19 to live to fight another day.

Press Association

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport