COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Ireland manager Martin O’Neill singled out Darren Randolph for praise after his goalkeeper’s starring role in their scoreless draw in the first leg of their World Cup playoff in Denmark.
The two sides head to Dublin with the tie delicately poised after a tense 90 minutes of few clear-cut chances — the best of those falling to the Danes, who found Randolph in top form.
“Darren Randolph is a very fine goalkeeper,” O’Neill told a media conference at the Parken Stadium. “I thought he made an excellent save, and the one he tipped over the bar. I think that’s the way he has played for us in this campaign.”
There was little skill but plenty of heart on show as the two sides struggled for supremacy on a bumpy pitch.
“I thought tonight was just a real physical battle, and it was tough going, but we have just got to win the game now on Tuesday night,” O’Neill said.
“I think it’s very evenly poised. He (Aga Hareide) thinks that they are capable of scoring at the Aviva, I wouldn’t doubt that. We have to score goals to win the game.”
Denmark’s Norwegian coach Age Hareide said his charges deserved to be heading to Dublin in the driving seat.
“We created the chances good enough and big enough to score - it’s not often Ireland give away such open chances as they did here,” he told reporters.
The Irish did little to try to get an away goal, but that didn’t surprise Hareide, who said his side did enough to win the game.
“They have the strength in the defence, and also, it’s very hard, as a small mistake can give Ireland a goal,” Hareide said.
“They’re strong on set-pieces, long throws, corners, free kicks. They kick the ball into the box — it’s difficult to handle, and they are good at that.”
Hareide said the pitch at Parken prevented his side from establishing any sort of a passing game.
“It’s a problem we have in the Nordic region, having pitches that are good in November,” he said. “They’re difficult and we knew that, but hopefully, we (will) get more space in Dublin.
“A goal away will be be vital for us. A goal away and they have to score two, and they don’t score two many times.”
Reporting by Philip O'Connor,; Editing by Neville Dalton