Isaac Price and Dion Charles score as Northern Ireland end UEFA Euro 2024 campaign on a high with win against Denmark
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Michael O’Neill’s men had suffered seven defeats in nine matches heading into Monday evening but his youthful squad gave their faithful support some hope for the future as they swept aside the star-studded Danes with two second-half strikes.
Price got the opener, finishing off a superb counter-attack which was started by Jamal Lewis and also involved Shea Charles, before substitute Conor McMenamin laid the ball on a plate for Dion Charles to slam home from close range.
O’Neill made three changes from Friday’s 4-0 drubbing in Finland with Ciaron Brown, Shea Charles and Dale Taylor replacing Daniel Ballard, Jordan Thompson and Ross McCausland while Paddy McNair donned the captain’s armband.
The first opportunity fell to the hosts in the eighth minute as Dion Charles latched onto a miscued Rasmus Kristensen header before bounding through on goal, but his attempt rattled off the Danish post from a narrowing angle with Kasper Schmeichel beaten.
Northern Ireland were ably withstanding pressure from the Danes and it wasn’t until the 21st minute when the visitors created a chance of note as Jesper Lindstrom scuffed his attempt following a ball across goal from Celtic’s Matt O’Riley.
The visitors were starting to take control of the game in dangerous areas – they ended the half with 69% possession – and Joachim Andersen’s shot trickled narrowly past Conor Hazard’s post following a welcome deflection.
Kasper Dolberg was the next culprit to blow a major chance for Denmark as he failed to redirect a pacey Victor Kristiansen cross into the Northern Ireland net.
Hazard, deputising for an injured Bailey Peacock-Farrell, was called into action in the 38th minute to deny Andersen’s header from a Mathias Jensen corner and he was required again on the stroke of half-time as Barcelona defender Andreas Christensen tried his luck from distance – a deflected shot which almost outfoxed the Plymouth Argyle stopper – but he rescued the situation with an outstretched leg to maintain parity.
Just like in the first-half, Northern Ireland had the best chance to open the scoring after the break as Eoin Toal headed a superb Jamal Lewis cross narrowly wide.
O’Neill’s men did take the lead in the 60th minute throw a stunning counter, started by some neat footwork from Lewis, who danced past a couple of Danish defenders before the ball found its way to Price via both Dion and Shea Charles.
The 20-year-old made no mistake, beating Schmeichel at his near post, but the Premier League winner will undoubtedly be disappointed he didn’t keep the effort out.
Denmark manager Kasper Hjulmand immediately responded by making three changes and it was one of those, Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, that struck harmlessly wide in the 68th minute.
There was lift-off at the National Stadium with 10 minutes to go as McMenamin stood up Anderson before delivering a pinpoint pass across goal to Dion Charles, who finished off the job.
This result will give O’Neill’s side, who still finished a distant fifth in Group H, a massive boost after what has been a dismal campaign which had only previously included victories against San Marino.