Ireland produced their best performance of the qualifying campaign against Denmark in Dublin this evening but it was not enough as the one all draw means we must contest and win our play-off Group next March if we are to grace the 2020 European Championship Finals.
The inclusion of Alan Browne in the starting eleven and the exclusion of Callum O’Dowda from the matchday squad were the major talking points prior to the commencement of the match.
Browne commenced on the right side of midfield and was disciplined and tidy in his first half performance. Indeed the Ireland team as a whole espoused composure, in sharp contrast to much of the earlier campaign, with their ball retention and distribution generally quite excellent. Ireland fashioned a number of half chances, with the best falling to Conor Hourihane but his final effort was too tame and the first half finished goal less.
A calf injury forced the half time withdrawal of John Egan but his replacement Ciaran Clark slotted in seamlessly. Ireland maintained their impetus in the second period but suffered a hammer blow on 73 minutes when a lack of communication between Matt Doherty and Shane Duffy allowed Martin Braithwaite a free run on goal and he took the chance to give Denmark the lead. The error by Doherty and Duffy was their only blemish of the evening, but at this level it was always likely to prove costly.
Ireland did maintain much of their composure and discipline as they went in search of the two goals they now needed to secure automatic qualification. Their efforts brought reward in the 85th minute when Doherty powered home a header from a delicious cross by fellow full back Enda Stevens who, echoing his excellent club performances, had another fine international outing.
As the remaining minutes ticked down Ireland maintained the pressure on the Danes who were anything bit composed, but that one clear cut chance did not materialise and so we are play-off bound.
Team: Darren Randolph; Matt Doherty, Shane Duffy (C), John Egan, Enda Stevens; Alan Browne, Jeff Hendrick, Glenn Whelan, Conor Hourihane, James McClean; David McGoldrick
Ciaran Clark for Egan 46′
Callum Robinson for Hourihane 67′
Sean Maguire for Whelan 81′
P W D L F A G/D Pts
Switzerland 8 5 2 1 19 6 13 17
Denmark 8 4 4 0 23 6 17 16
Ireland 8 3 4 1 7 5 2 13
Georgia 8 2 2 4 7 11 -4 8
Gibraltar 8 0 0 8 3 31 -28 0