Sunday 19 November 2017

Keeping the dream alive

Denmark 0 Republic of Ireland 0

Denmark’s ‘keeper Kasper Schmeichel is put under pressure by Republic of Ireland striker Daryl Murphy during last night’s World Cup qualifier play-off first leg clash at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen. Photo: Stephen McCarthy. Photo: Sportsfile
Denmark’s ‘keeper Kasper Schmeichel is put under pressure by Republic of Ireland striker Daryl Murphy during last night’s World Cup qualifier play-off first leg clash at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen. Photo: Stephen McCarthy. Photo: Sportsfile

Colin Young in Copenhagen

He may have achieved the result he wanted, but Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill was typically cautious after the goalless draw in the first leg of the World Cup play-off in Copenhagen last night.

The Ireland manager played down suggestions that his side will be favourites for Tuesday's second leg in the Aviva Stadium after they frustrated Denmark and their supporters with a typically robust and determined performance in the Parken Stadium.

The Irish side, with the surprise inclusion of Callum O'Dowda, dug in for a scoreless draw which O'Neill argued gives Age Hareide's team an advantage going into the second leg. He also accepted that Tottenham playmaker Christian Eriksen will hardly be as ineffective and quiet as he was on home turf last night.

Ireland failed to score in a competitive away match for the first time since they lost in Scotland more than three years ago. O'Neill cannot see Denmark doing the same this week.

"It's very evenly poised," said O'Neill. "They are capable of scoring at the Aviva, I wouldn't doubt that. With the players they possess they are more than capable of scoring a goal, so we might have to score two to win the match. But we're capable of that. It was a tough evening and the pitch was tough as well. Overall we're in here battling and there is all to play for still on Tuesday night.

"It was hard, we're playing away from home, and it is very difficult because the onus is on them to try to break a team like us down. We set out with a game plan, we had one or two chances ourselves, particularly with Cyrus (Christie) doing well down the right-hand side. We didn't get the goal we wanted and I am sure they might think 0-0 is not bad result. We know we now have to win a game at the Aviva.

"We would obviously want to be better with the ball in Dublin. We'll be playing in front of our own fans and we will need to score a goal. But I am pleased with the team and pleased with the effort. We have put in a big, big effort away from home to go to the Aviva on Tuesday. This was a real physical battle and it is almost remarkable there was not a yellow card."

Harry Arter and James McClean in particular were fortunate not to pick up cautions which would have ruled them out of the second game. The Danes also avoided yellow cards.

O'Neill, who left Glenn Whelan and Shane Long out of the starting XI, also has Wes Hoolahan and David Meyler available for a start on Tuesday.

Denmark manager Age Hareide took positives from the game, saying: "I said before the game that a goalless draw would not be the worst thing. We know we have to score in Dublin now because that means Ireland have to score two, and I think we can do that.

"Ireland are a very difficult team to break down and it is not often they give away chances. They have to get forward more, their crowd will demand that, and that could create space for us. They are more than capable of playing better but the pitch will suit us at Lansdowne.

"The Irish defend well and that is allowed in football. We will have to look at the game and try to find a way in Dublin. All credit to Ireland, they defended well, didn't create much, but they are strong, disciplined and it was always going to be difficult. Hopefully we will get more space in Dublin. If we play like this, we will win"

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