Highlights on Off The Ball

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Highlights on Off The Ball


Ireland 2-2 Belgium: Chiedozie Ogbene is a rising star

Chiedozie Ogbene and Alan Browne scored the goals as Ireland held Belgium at home.

Chiedozie Ogbene scored one and set up another as Ireland held Belgium to a 2-2 draw on Saturday.

It fell a bit flat in the end.

Despite two amazing goals, Ireland's game with Belgium didn't produce much quality overall. Belgium brought a squad to Ireland that only featured players with fewer than 50 caps. That meant it was very much a second-string side, but they were still able to dominate possession for most of the game.

Ireland didn't want that to be the case. As Belgium retained possession, they primarily did so in their own half. When Ireland attempted to press, they weren't easily pulled apart but there was a disconnect between the back line and front. Jason Knight gestured his frustration on more than one occasion when he sprinted forward and nobody followed to the next man on the ball.

Ireland lacked the ability to take over the game and Belgium lacked the incisiveness to take advantage of the control they had.

Maybe fittingly, the opening goal of the game came from an atypical scenario.

Ireland pressed upfield and had the ball at the back with Shane Duffy. Duffy had time and space on the ball as Ireland retained easy possession. But his pass forward was wild and found nobody in a green jersey. Belgium picked it up, located Michy Batshuayi in the left channel, who then whipped a great strike into the far corner of the net.

Caoimhin Kelleher had no chance of stopping it.

Ireland responded before halftime with a magical goal from Chiedozie Ogbene. A rare venture with the ball to the byline from Matt Doherty set the move in motion. His cross went across the box, before Callum Robinson eventually picked the ball up on the left wing. Robinson stood the ball up in the six-yard box brilliantly.

The ball was knocked back down to the waiting Ogbene. He took a touch to set up an overhead kick, then perfectly executed the strike into the opposite corner as Simon Mignolet dived to the near post.

Belgium retook the lead after halftime. A very easy goal came from a corner where Ireland allowed multiple Belgium attackers the freedom of their box. Hans Vanaken headed the ball down, it ricocheted off Seamus Coleman and past Kelleher. Kelleher had no chance, again.

For most of the rest of the second half it looked like Belgium would just play the game out. James McClean should have scored with an opportunity just after halftime, but outside of that Ireland didn't threaten Mignolet at all.

It wasn't until Ogbene again produced a moment of magic that Ireland got another equalizer. This time he turned provider. Ogbene took three or four touches on the sideline, expertly keeping a ball in that had no right of staying on the field of play. Once he settled himself, he darted the ball across the box to an arriving Alan Browne.

Browne's rocket header went past Mignolet inside the near post. It was a second brilliant goal from Ireland.

Two brilliant goals and a positive result against one of the best teams in the world. It's hardly a bad day out. And yet, it still feels like Ireland can play a lot better than they did. Stephen Kenny will expect better against Lithuania on Tuesday.

Josh Cullen's identity is so important for him.


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Allen Browne Callum Robinson Chiedozie Ogbene Ireland Belgium Shane Duffy Stephen Kenny