ALAN BROWNE’S LATE STRIKE GIVES IRELAND A DRAW AGAINST BELGIUM IN DUBLIN.
International Friendly, Aviva Stadium – Republic of Ireland 2 (Ogbene 34’, Browne 85’) Belgium 2 (Batshuayi 11’, Vanaken 57’).
Ireland twice fought from behind to earn a thrilling draw with Belgium in Dublin as Stephen Kenny’s side stretched their unbeaten run to seven games.
On the night the Football Association of Ireland celebrated their centenary year, Ireland put on a show at the sold-out Aviva Stadium and were arguably the better side as the world’s ranked number one nation left frustrated.
Michy Batshuayi – making his 40th international appearance – quickly dampened the party atmosphere at the Aviva, opening the scoring after 12 minutes with a splendid solo effort.
Having cut inside off the left, he curled a delicious shot into the bottom corner to leave Caoimhin Kelleher with no chance.
Belgium continued to boss the game but 10 minutes before half-time Ireland levelled with a piece of magic of their own.
The visitors were made to pay for clearing their lines and with the ball bobbling around inside the penalty area Chiedozie Ogbe took a touch to set himself and delivered a spectacular overhead-kick past the hapless Simon Mignolet.
That goal changed the momentum and having finished the half strongly, Ireland went desperately close to taking the lead immediately after the restart. James McClean’s shot was diverted towards goal by the heel of Callum Robinson but Jason Denayer made a desperate clearance on the line.
Despite all of their good play Ireland found themselves behind once again just before hour-mark when they were undone from a corner. Thorgan Hazard’s delivery found the unmarked Hans Vanaken, he helped it goalwards and it took a deflection before hitting the back of the net.
But Ireland would have the final say. Alan Browne, brought off the bench to provide a spark in midfield, provided exactly that, powering a header past Mignolet as Ogbene turned provider with just five minutes to play.
A winner couldn’t be found but Ireland boss Kenny will be enthused by another most impressive performance from his improving side, while his counterpart will be left wondering if Belgium have enough strength in depth after all.