Ireland impress in O’Shea’s managerial debut despite Ferguson’s missed penalty

Ireland drew 0-0 with a strong Belgium side in what was an impressive display for the Irish in their first game under John O’Shea.

Although it was a goalless game, it was one with plenty of chances with Evan Ferguson’s missed penalty the moment that will stick in people’s minds. 

Away from the football despite major hype on social media going into the game, the crowd in Lansdowne Road did not reflect that. Plenty of empty seats in the house which can make only one feel that the duo match pack being sold by the FAI will not work in the long run and can only negatively affect players, fans and even the FAI if it is continued to be advertised. 

The game started almost with a bang as after three minutes, Evan Ferguson done well to fend off Wout Faes and lay it off to the impressive Sammie Szmodics , who slipped in Chiedozie Ogbene who, one on one with the keeper just had to lay it off to Seamus Coleman to put the ball into an empty net but he went himself and hit it into the side netting.

Belgium only created one chance in the first half when Leandro Trossard showed some beautiful footwork to put Coleman on toast and put a cross right on Youri Tielemans head, who just put it wide.

The biggest moment in the game came in the 26th minute when a Robbie Brady set piece fell to Dara O’Shea who hit the ball towards the goal but his shot hit a Belgian hand and the referee had no choice but to award a penalty. Evan Ferguson who has gone 19 games without a goal at club level stepped up but unfortunately his planted foot somewhat gave way and didn’t connect with the ball the way he would have wanted to, resulting in an easy save for Matz Sels.

Ferguson did his best to not let the chance affect him as on the stroke of half time a long ball was flicked on by Irelands number 9 to Sammie Szmodics who hit it over from a tight angle.

Onto the second half, John O’Sheas half time team talk seemed to light a spark as almost instanlty from kickoff, there was some brilliant play between debutant Szmodics and man of the match contender Robbie Brady who whipped in a gorgeous ball to Evan Ferguson who’s header went just over the bar.

Another big chance fell to Sammie Szmodics in the 68th minute after some brilliant work by Ogbene who crossed it into the superb Will Smallbone who found Ireland’s number 15 who’s goal bound shot was blocked.

Ireland would continue to dominate the second period until around the 70th minute when Szmodics, Ogbene and Ferguson came off and naturally it took time for the replacements to get up to speed of an intense game. Belgium brought on Manchester City’s Jeremy Doku at half time who always looked a threat but Seamus Coleman got the better of the matchup showing that his time in the Irish team isn’t done just yet.

No more big chances would fall Ireland’s way as it looked like Belgium would have the last laugh if it wasn’t for Caoimhin Kelleher’s class. Substitute Dodi Lukebakio did very well to spin Dara O’Shea and drive towards goal, laying it off to Thomas Meunier who hit a lovely strike that looked to be goal bound but Ireland’s number one had other plans. 

John O’Shea’s decision to pick Kelleher over Bazunu tonight went exactly how he would have wanted it to with the Corkman showing why Virgil Van Dijk describes him as “world class”.

The final 10 minutes had very little action which was naturally a consequence of the effort put in by both sides and the number of subs made by both sides, disrupting the flow of the game.

Ireland will now head into Tuesday’s game against Switzerland with plenty to build on but also can also leave tonight’s battle with heads held high knowing they could have easily beaten one of Europe’s best if they converted their chances.

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