Ferguson fluffs penalty as Ireland draw with Belgium

March 24, 2024 7:27 am

[Source: Reuters]

Ireland striker Evan Ferguson missed a first-half penalty as interim manager John O’Shea began his tenure with a 0-0 home draw against Belgium in a friendly.

The home side were awarded a spot-kick when Dara O’Shea struck the ball against Arthur Vermeeren’s arm from close range, but Ferguson’s penalty was poor and Belgium goalkeeper Matz Sels saved it with his feet.

Belgium, who have now gone 11 games undefeated under coach Domenico Tedesco since a disastrous 2022 World Cup campaign in Qatar, had the lion’s share of possession but failed to create much in the absence of injured midfielder Kevin De Bruyne.

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There was a sense of experimentation from both sides on a blustery night in Dublin.

Ireland handed a debut to forward Sammie Szmodics and there was a return after 12 months for captain Seamus Coleman at right back.

Belgium gave defender Koni De Winter his first cap and replaced him in the second half with midfielder Amadou Onana, who slotted into central defence.

“It wasn’t our best match,” Tedesco said. “The rhythm was very slow, it was like a practice match in the summer. We weren’t sharp. I was happy when the referee blew the (final) whistle.

“We have given minutes to players who receive little or no minutes at their clubs. As a result, you also have a lack of intensity. I do not draw any firm conclusions from this match.”

Chiedozie Ogbene had an early chance for the hosts when he burst into the box but his shot was into the side netting, before Ferguson’s penalty miss sent a sigh of disappointment through the Aviva Stadium.

Belgium forward Lois Openda had a shot saved at the second attempt by home goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher, who also made a good low stop to deny Thomas Meunier from 16 yards as the teams played out a fifth successive draw.

“I think we can be pleased with the performance against a good side,” Ireland midfielder Josh Cullen told Virgin Media.

“First time with fresh ideas across, happy with what we achieved in the game. Stuff to improve on, we need to be more clinical. We need to be winning games when we play like that.”

Belgium travel to London to face England in a friendly on Tuesday. Ireland, who did not qualify for Euro 2022 to spell the end of manager Stephen Kenny’s tenure, welcome Switzerland to Dublin the same evening.