Tuesday 14 June 2016

Ciaran Clark Own Goal Denies Irish Win In Euro 2016 Opener

Republic of Ireland were forced to settle for a point in their Euro 2016 opener after Ciaran Clark's own goal saw them draw 1-1 with Sweden in Paris. Wes Hoolahan's sumptuous half-volley three minutes after the interval had given Martin O'Neill's men a deserved lead at the Stade de France.

Clark provided the one blotch on what was an otherwise encouraging performance, levelling the contest on 71 minutes when he headed Zlatan Ibrahimovic's cross beyond the stricken Darren Randolph. The Irish now head to Bordeaux to take on the highest-ranked team in the tournament, Belgium, on Saturday while Sweden take on Italy in Toulouse on Friday.

After a stirring rendition of the Irish national anthem sounded out around the Stade de France, Ireland set about imposing their game on Sweden, and created their first opening after nine minutes when Jeff Hendrick's rasping drive forced Andreas Isaksson to tip the ball behind for a corner. Sweden responded two minutes later when Ibrahimovic's raking diagonal ball almost fell for Marcus Berg, but Irish stopper Randolph was quick off his line to gather. Ireland should have taken the lead on 17 minutes when, after Clark had flicked Robbie Brady's corner across goal, John O'Shea missed the unguarded goal from inside the six-yard box. Sweden responded by retaining possession for large spells but they struggled to create any chances of note - with Ireland coming closest twice in three minutes.

First, the bright Brady sent a whistling effort onto the roof of the Swedish goal before Shane Long laid the ball off to Hendrick, and he curled it against the bar on 32 minutes. There was one last chance for Ireland to score before the interval, but Long was prevented from getting on the end of Brady's cross by Martin Olsson.

The breakthrough finally came for Ireland on 48 minutes. After great work down the right from Seamus Coleman, the Everton full-back floated a ball into the area for Hoolahan to volley sweetly past Isaksson, sparking wild celebrations among the thousands of Irish fans in attendance. Sweden hit back immediately, but Emil Forsberg spurned a gilt-edged opportunity, volleying wide from six-yards on 50 minutes, before Ibrahimovic headed off target shortly after.

The Swedish captain was on the periphery of things in Paris as the Swedes failed to muster a single attempt on goal throughout the 90 minutes, but he played a key role as his side were gifted an equaliser. A purposeful run down the left-hand side of the Irish box ended with Ibrahimovic driving the ball into the six-yard box towards Sebastian Larsson, but it was Clark who got the unfortunate touch to beat Randolph.
Similarly to Sweden, Ireland rallied and almost scored immediately after conceding, but Isaksson was on hand to deny Hendrick's drive from a narrow angle on 73 minutes. Sweden's biggest threat came down the left through full-back Olsson, but Ireland stood firm to earn a point which sees them equal the points total set in the group stages at Euro 2012.


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