The Republic of Ireland got their EURO 2016 campaign off to an encouraging start today with a 1-1 draw against Sweden. Midfield maestro Wes Hoolahan had fired Ireland into the lead with 48 minutes played but center-back Ciaran Clark’s attempted clearance ended up in his own net on 71 minutes.
Ireland dominated the opening 45 minutes creating chance after chance placing the Swedes under considerable pressure. Jeff Hendrick forced a fine save from Swedish keeper Andreas Isaksson with 9 minutes played.Captain John O’Shea was inches away from giving Ireland the lead with 17 minutes gone when his outstretched leg couldn’t connect with a flick-on from a corner. A little over ten minutes later Robbie Brady collected the ball on the edge of the box taking on a strike with his supposedly weaker right foot The left-backs strike agonizingly skimmed the crossbar. Two minutes after the half hour mark Hendricks nearly scored a spectacular goal but once again the woodwork saved Sweden’s blushes. Fully in control Ireland could have had a penalty when both Jonathan Walters and Shane Long were brought down after a Brady cross but referee Milorad Mazic waved away their appeals. The sides went down the tunnel level at half-time.
Ireland began the second period much like the first with Hendrick immediately taking on a strike that forced Isaksson into action. Three minutes after the restart right-back Seamus Coleman displayed exceptional skill on the right-wing before delivering a curling ball into the area. Hoolahan read Coleman’s intention and adjusted his run before connecting sweetly with the ball sending it past Isaksson into the right hand side of the Swedish net. The Stade de France erupted.
Sweden were awoken by this set-back and set about leveling the match straight away. A Swedish corner bounced off Ciaran Clark’s leg forcing Irish keeper Darren Randolph to produce an exceptional save which fell to Forsberg – fortunately he riffled the ball into the stand. The Swedes were piling the pressure on with left-back Olsson causing havoc down the left flank. Brave defending saw Ireland keep the lead and an unusually quiet Zlatan Ibrahimovic was caught offside on more than three occasions. It was Ibrahimovic who supplied the cross from the left side of the box that saw Clark head into his own net. The center-back was trying to prevent Sebastian Larsson from scoring but undid his teammates hard work.
Sweden now looked the more dangerous side but stubborn defending from John O’Shea and Glen Whelan kept the men in yellow at bay. Martin O’Neill opted to bring on Robbie Keane, James McClean and Aiden McGeady looking for a winner but they couldn’t find a way through a tough Swedish defence.
All in all Ireland were the better side today and can take plenty of positives from the result such as how they dealt with Ibrahinmovic and the displays from players such as Hendrick and Hoolahan. Both sides sit at the top of Group E with Italy and Belgium facing each other tonight.
Man of the Match – Wes Hoolahan (Ireland)
- James McClean replaces Jonathan Walters 63 mins
- Robbie Keane replaces Wes Hoolahan 78 mins
- Aiden McGeady replaces James McCarthy 85 mins
- Erik Johansson replaces Mikael Lustig 45 mins
- John Gudetti replaces Marcus Berg 59 mins
- Albin Ekdal replaces Oscar Lewicki
Ireland – James McCarthy, Glen Whelan.
Sweden – Victor Lindeloef