Republic hold Denmark in first leg of World Cup play-off

Darren Randolph congratulated by Shane Duffy

The Republic of Ireland have now gone seven competitive away matches without defeat

The Republic of Ireland produced a stubborn defensive display to earn a goalless draw in the first leg of their 2018 World Cup play-off with Denmark in Copenhagen.

Martin O’Neill’s side had just 28% of possession in the game but were well-organised, disciplined and unconcerned by the manner in which they frustrated the home side.

Denmark had chances but a combination of poor finishing and impressive saves from Darren Randolph ensured O’Neill’s side will start the second leg on level terms.

The visitors’ only clear opportunity saw Kasper Schmeichel save Cyrus Christie’s attempted chip before Jeff Hendrick’s follow-up was blocked.

The Republic of Ireland are aiming to make their first appearance at a World Cup finals since Japan and Korea in 2002, when Mick McCarthy’s side reached the last 16.

The second leg of the play-off for a place in Russia next summer is at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Tuesday.

Halfway there…

Having claimed their play-off place only in the last round of qualifying fixtures – courtesy of James McClean’s solitary goal in Cardiff – the Republic are unlikely to take anything for granted in the second leg.

However, they have decent pedigree in these two-legged, last-chance routes to reach a major finals.

This is the eighth time they have contested a play-off to reach a major tournament – more than any other European nation – and have prevailed in three of the last four.

The only losing effort in that run came at the hand of Thierry Henry, when the Arsenal legend infamously handled the ball to ensure France progressed to the 2010 World Cup.

However, there will be more onus on the Republic to produce more in the opposition third on Tuesday, because barring the Christie effort and Hendrick follow-up, they failed to create anything else notable in Denmark.

O’Neill and his side will also be acutely aware they will need to be clinical when they do create a chance, having failed to do that against the 10 men of Serbia in September and lose 1-0.

‘Easy to read, difficult to beat’

Denmark manager Age Hareide damned the Republic with faint praise in the build up to Saturday’s encounter in Copenhagen when he described them as “easy to read but difficult to beat”.

However his assessment proved frustratingly accurate for the home side.

O’Neill did pull a minor surprise in his starting XI with his selection of Callum O’Dowda and not Glenn Whelan in midfield, which hinted at an ambition to pursue an away goal to defend in Dublin.

But, true to form, this was a stubborn, defence-minded display from the men in white and green, much like the ones that preceded it during their qualification campaign, when they were unbeaten away from home.

For the majority of the game, the away side had five or more men strung across the width of the pitch near the edge of their own box, with the two biggest – Shane Duffy and Ciaran Clark – tasked with hammering clear, by any legal means, all that Denmark could throw at them.

It proved effective for the most part, especially in denying Denmark’s star player Christian Eriksen the space to influence the game or score in what would have been for the seventh international game running.

The tactics predictably gave lone striker Daryl Murphy a thankless task. The Nottingham Forest forward touched the ball just 20 times, none of them in the home penalty area, before he was replaced by Shane Long with 25 minutes to go.

Keeper Randolph was, just as unsurprisingly, much more involved.

The highlight of his display was a superb double save in the first half to push away an angled shot from Jens Stryger Larsen before reacting quickly to block and gather the follow-up from former Cardiff striker Andreas Cornelius.

He almost blotted his copybook with a poor push-out from Eriksen’s shot but, after gathering the loose ball, Pione Sisto fired his shot inches past the far post.

Live Text

Match ends, Denmark 0, Republic of Ireland 0.

Second Half ends, Denmark 0, Republic of Ireland 0.

Attempt missed. Jens Stryger Larsen (Denmark) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right.

Substitution, Republic of Ireland. Conor Hourihane replaces Jeff Hendrick.

Foul by Thomas Delaney (Denmark).

Shane Duffy (Republic of Ireland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt blocked. Nicklas Bendtner (Denmark) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Nicolai Jørgensen with a headed pass.

Corner, Denmark. Conceded by Cyrus Christie.

Attempt blocked. Jens Stryger Larsen (Denmark) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

Corner, Denmark. Conceded by Darren Randolph.

Attempt saved. Yussuf Poulsen (Denmark) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Jens Stryger Larsen with a cross.

Attempt saved. Shane Duffy (Republic of Ireland) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Robbie Brady.

Foul by William Kvist (Denmark).

Callum O’Dowda (Republic of Ireland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Substitution, Republic of Ireland. Glenn Whelan replaces Harry Arter.

Attempt missed. Robbie Brady (Republic of Ireland) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Jeff Hendrick.

Foul by Yussuf Poulsen (Denmark).

Harry Arter (Republic of Ireland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt missed. Shane Long (Republic of Ireland) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the left.

Attempt blocked. Shane Long (Republic of Ireland) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Cyrus Christie.

Thomas Delaney (Denmark) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by James McClean (Republic of Ireland).

Foul by Andreas Bjelland (Denmark).

Shane Long (Republic of Ireland) wins a free kick on the right wing.

William Kvist (Denmark) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Harry Arter (Republic of Ireland).

Corner, Republic of Ireland. Conceded by Yussuf Poulsen.

Foul by Nicklas Bendtner (Denmark).

Harry Arter (Republic of Ireland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Substitution, Republic of Ireland. Shane Long replaces Daryl Murphy.

Substitution, Denmark. Nicklas Bendtner replaces Pione Sisto.

Attempt missed. Yussuf Poulsen (Denmark) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Nicolai Jørgensen.

Peter Ankersen (Denmark) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Ciaran Clark (Republic of Ireland).

Foul by Yussuf Poulsen (Denmark).

Harry Arter (Republic of Ireland) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

Substitution, Denmark. Yussuf Poulsen replaces Andreas Cornelius.

Delay in match Cyrus Christie (Republic of Ireland) because of an injury.

Attempt blocked. Jens Stryger Larsen (Denmark) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

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