Demonstrating the grit typified recent performances, the Republic of Ireland fought back twice to secure a draw against the team ranked number one in the world, who were staffed mostly by their second string today.
Meanwhile, Belgium will be disappointed that their dominance of the ball did not translate into many clear-cut chances, and their troubling run of form rolls on into 2022.
The Red Devils’ attempts to embed some fresh faces while offering others a rest resulted in a tame final-third display; leaving Martinez with much to ponder over the coming days.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (3-4-3): Caoimhin Kelleher;
Seamus Coleman, Shane Duffy, John Egan;
Matt Doherty, Josh Cullen, Jeff Hendrick, James McClean;
Chiedozie Ogbene, Callum Robinson, Jason Knight.
BELGIUM (3-4-3): Simon Mignolet;
Dedryck Boyata, Arthur Theate, Jason Denayer;
Alexis Saelemaekers, Leander Dendoncker, Youri Tielemans, Thorgan Hazard;
Hans Vanaken, Michy Batshuayi, Charles de Ketelaere.
BELGIUM LEAD! Out of nothing, the visitors go in front, as Batshuayi continues his potent international form with a self-made goal. The Besiktas striker receives the ball from Vanaken near the left touchline, drifts inside under little pressure and then curls a precise shot in at the far post from the left side of the area. Ireland 0-1 Belgium!
IRELAND ARE LEVEL! Rewarded for their first sustained attack with an equalising goal, Ireland score through an acrobatic strike by Ogbene. After Robinson stands the ball up into the six-yard box, the ball breaks loose to the young winger, who manages to get it under control with his back to goal before turning in a spectacular overhead kick from 10 yards out. It’s 1-1 in Dublin.
BELGIUM BACK IN FRONT! An inswinging corner from the right by Hazard picks out Vanaken in the centre of the box, and the latter’s header nestles in the back of the net via a deflection; giving Belgium a 2-1 lead.
IRELAND LEVEL AGAIN! After Doherty wins the ball in midfield, Ogbene does well to keep it in by the right corner flag and cut it back towards the six-yard box. Browne leaps highest at the near post, beating Mangala to the ball and powering a header into the bottom right corner – leaving Mignolet with no chance! It’s 2-2 in Dublin.
So, what’s next?
Having extended their unbeaten run to a seventh game on the FAI’s 100th anniversary, Ireland takes on Lithuania in their next friendly on Tuesday, before returning to competitive action in the Nations League against Ukraine in early June.
Meanwhile, Belgium will meet Burkina Faso next week before beginning their Nations League campaign against the Netherlands later this year.
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