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Friday 16 Jun 2023
Northern Ireland fall to narrow heartbreaking defeat in Copenhagen

Northern Ireland fell to a narrow one-goal defeat to Denmark as the UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying campaign continued in Copenhagen's Parken Stadium tonight.

But at the final whistle it felt much more crushing of a loss than the scoreline suggests after debutant Callum Marshall saw a stoppage time equaliser ruled out for offside following a lengthy VAR check.

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill received some good news before kick-off with the confirmation that both Conor Bradley and Trai Hume were cleared to start, although Craig Cathcart was unfortunately added to the ever growing injury list after pulling out of training yesterday with a back spasm.

As might have been expected, the Danes started on the front foot and threatened early on after Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg volleyed wide at the back post after Andreas Skov Olsen had sent over a cross from the right.

To their credit Northern Ireland handled anything the home side threw at them and, indeed, had an effort of their own after a quarter-of-an-hour when Shayne Lavery forced Kasper Schmeichel into a scramble across goal to keep out a deflected 20-yard attempt.

By and large the Danes enjoyed the majority of possession, albeit without any end result.

Christian Eriksen had a go from 30 yards with a set piece on 24 minutes but the ball drifted wide, while Joachim Andersen sent an effort straight at Bailey Peacock-Farrell after being allowed to cut through the defence.

Scoreless at the break, it was a 45 minutes the Danes largely bossed but Northern Ireland will be pleased with their endeavours to go in at half-time on level terms.

However, that all changed during the initial exchanges in the second half.

Perhaps stung by their previous ineffectiveness in front of goal, Denmark broke the deadlock just two minutes in after a deep cross wasn't dealt with, allowing Jonas Wind to creep in and direct the ball past Peacock-Farrell at the far post.

Buoyed by this, Denmark pushed to build on their momentum with both Hojbjerg and Eriksen having a go from distance, followed by a Rasmus Hojlund shot which Peacock-Farrell did well to deal with.

Yet, against the run of play, Northern Ireland almost levelled just before the hour when Isaac Price was released by Peacock-Farrell on a solo surge forward which produced a top drawer save from Kasper Schmeichel for a corner which Paddy McNair could only head directly at the keeper.

What followed was a fairly evenly contested affair as Wind's goal appeared destined to be the difference between the sides but, four minutes into added time, the visiting fans were sent into raptures after Marshall appeared to have flicked home a dramatic equaliser after Jonny Evans had knocked on a Jordan Thompson ball into the box.

Unfortunately, after an agonisingly long VAR check, the 'goal' was ultimately ruled out after the officials noticed Evans had strayed marginally offside earlier in the move.

Elsewhere in Group H tonight Finland defeated Slovenia 2-0 in Helsinki, while Kazakhstan hit three goals without reply past San Marino in Parma.

Northern Ireland, meanwhile, have the opportunity to pick themselves up again on Monday night (19 June) when Kazakhstan visit the National Football Stadium, kick-off 7:45pm.

Denmark: Kasper Schmeichel, Joachim Andersen, Simon Kjaer, Andreas Christensen, Joakim Maehle, Christian Eriksen, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Martin Braithwaite, Jonas Wind, Andreas Skov Olsen, Rasmus Hojlund. Substitutes: Frederik Ronnow (not used), Victor Nelsson (not used), Mathias Jensen (not used), Philip Billing (not used), Mohamed Daramy (replaced Hojlund 90+2'), Rasmus Kristensen (replaced Wind 80'), Mikkel Damsgaard (replaced Braithwaite 73'), Jesper Lindstrom (replaced Skov Olsen 80'), Mads Hermansen (not used), Jens Stryger Larsen (replaced Maehle 73'), Morten Hjulmand (not used), Mathias Jorgensen (not used).

Northern Ireland: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Ciaron Brown, Jonny Evans, Paddy McNair, Trai Hume, George Saville, Shea Charles, Ali McCann, Conor Bradley, Isaac Price, Shayne Lavery. Substitutes: Paddy Lane (not used), Conor McMenamin (replaced Bradley 77'), Dale Taylor (replaced Price 77'), Dion Charles (replaced Lavery 69'), Callum Marshall (replaced McCann 85'), Conor Hazard (not used), Sean Goss (not used), Jordan Thompson (replaced Shea Charles 69'), Gavin Whyte (not used), Aaron Donnelly (not used), Luke Southwood (not used).