Wind blow lifts Denmark above battling Northern Ireland after late VAR drama

Euro 2024 qualifying Group H, matchday three: Denmark 1-0 Northern Ireland

TEENAGER Callum Marshall was denied a dramatic debut goal by an elongated VAR check which saved Denmark’s bacon in the 100th minute.

The West Ham United lad seemed to have rescued an unlikely point when he superbly flicked in after captain Jonny Evans had nodded on a free kick from Jordan Thompson in the fourth minute of added time - but after an age the ‘goal’ was disallowed.

There’s no denying that Denmark were the better team, but this defeat was doubly cruel for a severely understrength visiting side because decisive strike came following a slip from Northern Ireland’s star performer of the first half, which proved very costly early in the second.

Ciaron Brown had been excellent on the left of a back three, helping Michael O’Neill’s boys to hold an increasingly frustrated home team goalless.

However, when he lost his footing trying to clear a clipped cross from Joakim Maehle the Danish forward Jonas Wind pounced, controlling the loose ball before belting it past a helpless Bailey Peacock-Farrell.

Denmark might have scored three more times in the crazy spell that followed that goal, and NI full debutant Isaac Price forced a fine save from Kasper Schmeichel, but in the end that moment – and VAR – decided the outcome.

Both sides were following on from disappointing defeats in late March but there were still a surprising 11 changes between the two teams.

Injuries accounted for four of O’Neill’s six alterations, as Craig Cathcart brought the absentee list into double figures after picking up an injury in training. With Daniel Ballard already out, the return of Evans was most welcome.

Trai Hume had been expected to make his first start on the left side of defence, with Jamal Lewis not travelling and Shane Ferguson previously ruled out, but the loss of Cathcart necessitated Paddy McNair dropping into the back three.

That all meant a starting place in the re-shuffled team for midfielder Price, who has just joined Belgian club Standard Liege from Everton. Another former Toffee, Shayne Lavery, got the nod up front, in preference to Dion Charles.

Denmark boss Kasper Hjulmand changed almost half his team from that which started the 3-2 loss in Kazakhstan, albeit some of those alterations were enforced by injury too.

As expected, national here Christian Eriksen returned in midfield, while Andreas Skov Olsen’s inclusion was also anticipated – the surprise was him playing at right wing-back in a 3-4-3 formation, with Alexander Bah not even in the 23-man squad. Instead, Joachim Andersen of Crystal Palace lined out in the back three, with Barcelona’s Andreas Christensen also recalled.

Martin Braithwaite was brought back into the attack, with Jonas Wind also supporting the striking prodigy Rasmus Hojlund.

Braithwaite’s presence and physicality posed problems for the NI defence, but it was the pace and advanced positioning of Skov Olsen, making for almost a 3-3-4, that proved even more troublesome, particularly for Hume.

Fortunately for the visitors, when Skov Olsen sped past the Sunderland man and cut the ball back it didn’t come to any of the Danish attackers but to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and the Tottenham spoiler’s awkward right-foot volley went outside the left-hand post.

The men in all green pieced together a chance on the quarter hour, a clever flick from Price finding Lavery, whose left-foot drive was saved by a stretching Kasper Schmeichel.

The hosts ratcheted up the pressure but their final ball lacked accuracy, or was met by a defensive head or boot. An Eriksen corner did drop to captain Simon Kjaer, but Shea Charles threw himself bravely to block.

Brown had an excellent first half on the left of the back three, and Charles settled after uncharacteristically giving the ball away several times early on.

Indeed, NI looked so composed and comfortable, albeit with some crowd-baiting time-wasting, that the home support booed at half-time.

Their jeers turned to cheers when Wind broke the deadlock, and one goal could truly have become four within minutes.

First Hojbjerg unleashed an absolute piledriver which flew inches high and wide. Next, from a botched NI free kick, the Danes countered rapidly, releasing Hojlund, but although he got off a decent shot Peacock-Farrell saved with a strong right arm. Then Andersen whipped over a vicious cross from the right, which Hojlund just failed to connect with in the centre.

Amidst all the mayhem, Northern Ireland might have equalised. A brilliant long pass from Peacock-Farrell set Price free on the right and he raced on before firing a rising shot, which Schmeichel did well to turn away for a corner.

The chaos continued with the Danish keeper turning creator. Catching a McNair header from the corner, he launched the ball long to Eriksen, but although he smartly nodded the ball back to Hojbjerg he could not capitalise.

O’Neill twisted first, replacing Lavery with Dion Charles and bringing on Joran Thompson for Shea Charles.

With less than a quarter of an hour to go he went even more boldly, putting on Conor McMenamin and striker Dale Taylor for Conor Bradley and Price.

Marshall then got his first senior appearance in the 85th minute, and looked to have secured a precious point, but an apparent offside broke NI hearts and left the Danes singing and chanting long after the final whistle eventually came.

Denmark: Schmeichel; Andersen, Kjær (capt.), Christensen; Skov Olsen (Lindstrom, 79), Højbjerg, Eriksen, Mæhle (Stryger, 73); Wind (Kristensen, 79), Braithwaite (Damsgaard, 73), Højlund (Daramy, 92).

Northern Ireland: Peacock-Farrell; Bradley (McMenamin, 77), McNair, Evans (capt), Brown, Hume; S Charles (Thompson, 69), McCann (Marshall, 85), Saville; Price (Taylor, 77); Lavery (D Charles, 69).

Referee: Daniel Stefanski (Poland).