Ireland showed courage and skill to go a goal up against the more-fancied Sweden on Monday evening, but had to be content with a 1-1 draw in Paris.
- Ireland 1 Sweden 1
- Ireland dominate first half
- Long and Hendrick narrowly miss
- Hoolahan finishes beautifully
- Ibrahimovic forces Ireland own goal
Ireland were in total control of the first half, creating a number of opportunities – one of which rattled the crossbar from 30-yards out – and giving the Swedish forwards no chance to do the same.
The deadlock was broken shortly after half time, Wes Hoolahan finishing beautifully from Seamus Coleman’s delivery.
Sweden fought their way back into the match and equalised via the head of Ciaran Clark, the Ireland defender turning a dangerous Zlatan Ibrahimovic cross into his own net.
Sweden looked to have started the brighter of the two sides after five minutes, but Martin O’Neil’s men rallied and soon tested Sweden keeper Andreas Isaksson.
Isakssonwas alert to the danger and denied Ireland an early opening goal, punching a rasping Jeff Hendrick shot clear after John Walters headed a throw-in into the midfielder’s path on the edge of the box.
Ten minutes later, John O’Shea failed to make contact with a neat flick from Ciaran Clark with the goal at his mercy. Robbie Brady’s corner found the head of Clark, the ball landed at the feet of O’Shea, but the former Manchester United centre-back fumbled his chance at the back post.
Shane Long came agonisingly close on 29 minutes after the Swedish defence couldn’t close him down quick enough to prevent an excellent shot from the edge of the area, which beat Isaksson and sailed agonisingly close to the crossbar.
Hedrick came even closer five minutes later, rattling the crossbar with a thunderous long-distance shot after some neat interplay with the excellent Shane Long.
Sweden had no answer for the Irish midfield, unable to keep possession or create anything resembling a chance for the entire half.
Ireland had one more half-chance before the break after Long appeared to be the favourite to get on the end of an excellent cross from Brady, but Sweden defender Olson muscled the forward off the ball, much to the disgust of Long.
Two minutes after the start of the second half, the men in green got the goal they would have felt they deserved. Coleman beat his defender, burst into the penalty from the right flank and floated a cross to an unmarked Hoolahan. The Norwich midfielder made no mistake with his chance, swivelling beautifully to strike the ball on the half-volley past the diving keeper.
Sweden almost responded immediately. Emil Forsberg latched onto a loose ball following a botched clearance from a corner and should have at least tested Ireland keeper Darren Randolph, but his wild strike sailed over the crossbar and into the stands.
Ireland weathered the subsequent period of high pressure from Sweden, perhaps showing some weakness against set pieces in their penalty area.
The match picked up in pace after, with Sweden starting to show some intent in possession.
On 60 minutes, Ibrahimovic showed the type of technique that’s made him a football icon. The big striker managed to get his body in a position to somehow flick a poor cross that landed behind him towards the Ireland goal. The effort had Randolph beaten, but rolled comfortably past the right-hand upright.
The match settled somewhat for 11 minutes until the Ireland defence collapsed under pressure from Ibrahimovic. The big forward danced unchallenged into the right-hand side of the six-yard box and delivered a stinging low cross which Clark turned into his own net.
The match continued with neither side appearing to want to commit too many players forward, perhaps displaying their contentment with a draw.
And that is, indeed, how the match ended. Martin O’Neil introduced Ireland’s all-time top scorer, Robbie Keane at the expense of the excellent Wes Hoolahan, but the veteran striker had little chance to make an impact.