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Ireland hold Denmark to first-leg stalemate


Copenhagen (AFP) – The Republic of Ireland and Denmark played out a drab 0-0 draw in the first leg of their World Cup play-off in Copenhagen on Saturday.

The closest either side came to a goal was when Pione Sisto fired wide in the first half for the hosts, while Yussuf Poulsen saw a 90th-minute header saved by Darren Randolph.

Both sides will be satisfied with the result, as Martin O’Neill’s Irish now know victory in Dublin on Tuesday would secure a first World Cup appearance since 2002, but an away goal for the Danes could prove decisive after this clean sheet.

Denmark coach Age Hareide left striker Nicklas Bendtner on the bench in favour of Feyenoord’s Nicolai Jorgensen.

Irish manager O’Neill made just one change from the team that beat Wales 1-0 to snatch second place in qualifying Group D last month, bringing in Bristol City midfielder Callum O’Dowda to replace the suspended David Meyler.

The hosts started strongly and could have taken the lead in the 11th minute when Randolph saved Danish left-back Jens Larsen’s volley, before quickly getting back to his feet to hold onto Andreas Cornelius’ follow-up effort.

Sloppy defending from Ireland skipper Ciaran Clark gave the ball straight to Christian Eriksen and West Ham United keeper Randolph could only palm the midfielder’s effort back into the middle, but Sisto fired the rebound wide with the goal gaping.

But the visitors grew into the game as the first half wore on and Cyrus Christie was denied by the onrushing Kasper Schmeichel after bursting into the area with an enterprising run from full-back.

Ireland continued to sit deep and frustrate Denmark, who finished second to Poland in Group E, after the break.

Hareide threw on former Arsenal man Bendtner with less than 20 minutes to go as the home side went in search of a lead to take to Lansdowne Road.

The Danes had a late rally, with RB Leipzig forward Poulsen drawing a save from Randolph after climbing above the away defence to power a header towards goal, but Ireland held on.

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