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Republic of Ireland 2-2 Belgium: Late Alan Browne goal earns Republic draw in friendly

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Browne rose to meet Chiedozie Ogbene’s cross and earn the Irish a draw against the world’s top-ranked team

Alan Browne came off the bench to score a late equaliser and earn the Republic of Ireland a creditable friendly draw with world number one side Belgium.

The visitors took the lead after 12 minutes through Michy Batshuayi.

Chiedozie Ogbene levelled with a deflected bicycle kick before Belgium regained the lead when Hans Vanaken’s header went in off Seamus Coleman.

But Browne thumped a towering header past Simon Mignolet to earn the Irish a draw four minutes from time.

Back in action for the first time since the end of the World Cup qualifying campaign in November, the Republic will feel they deservedly took something from the game as they stretched their unbeaten run to seven matches.

With manager Roberto Martinez having only selected players with fewer than 50 caps, Belgium were missing Manchester City playmaker Kevin de Bruyne and Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku among others.

However, the visitors showed how dangerous they can be without their star players when Batshuayi opened the scoring with a ruthless finish.

Drifting out left to collect Vanaken’s pass, the striker drove between Coleman and Matt Doherty and beat Caoimhin Kelleher with a curling right-foot effort.

Given Belgium’s early dominance the home fans had little to shout about, but boos rang around the stadium after 25 minutes when the visitors’ bench featuring Thierry Henry was shown on the big screen, the France legend’s handball having famously denied the Irish a place at the 2010 World Cup.

However, Belgium failed to turn first-half dominance into clear-cut chances and were pegged back when Ogbene levelled in spectacular fashion after 35 minutes.

Ogbene celebrates at full time
Ogbene scored the Republic’s first equaliser before teeing up Browne late on

Callum Robinson’s left-wing cross fell to the Rotherham United winger, whose bicycle kick deflected off Jason Denayer and past Mignolet.

It was Ogbene’s third goal in six Republic caps, and his first at home having netted the others in World Cup qualifiers away at Azerbaijan and Luxembourg, impressing once again with his energy and direct running.

Having finished the first half on top, the Republic continued to trouble the Belgium defence and should have taken the lead within three minutes of the restart, only for Denayer to clear James McClean’s effort off the line after Jason Knight failed to find Robinson.

But the Irish found themselves behind once more when Vanaken rose highest to meet a corner, his header taking a decisive touch off Republic captain Coleman to wrong-foot Kelleher. 

After Robinson was denied by Mignolet, it looked as though Belgium would leave Dublin with a narrow victory – only for Browne to intervene.

Having replaced Jeff Hendrick, the Preston midfielder headed Ogbene’s cross home to spark joyous scenes as Stephen Kenny’s side delivered a deserved draw for the Football Association of Ireland in a game marking the governing body’s centenary.

What’s next?

The Republic host Lithuania in another friendly on Tuesday (19:45 BST) while Belgium face Burkina Faso at the same time, before attentions turn to the Nations League in June.

Line-ups

R. of Ireland

Formation 3-4-3

  • 1Kelleher
  • 2Coleman
  • 4Duffy
  • 5Egan
  • 10Doherty
  • 6Cullen
  • 13HendrickSubstituted forBrowneat 76′minutes
  • 11McCleanSubstituted forManningat 80′minutes
  • 20Ogbene
  • 7RobinsonSubstituted forParrottat 90+2′minutes
  • 17KnightSubstituted forKeaneat 76′minutes

Substitutes

  • 3Manning
  • 8Hourihane
  • 9Keane
  • 12Collins
  • 14Browne
  • 15Parrott
  • 16Talbot
  • 18O’Shea
  • 19Hogan
  • 21Sykes
  • 22Molumby
  • 23O’Leary

Belgium

Formation 3-4-3

  • 12Mignolet
  • 3Denayer
  • 4Boyata
  • 5TheateSubstituted forMangalaat 75′minutes
  • 15SaelemaekersSubstituted forFoketat 45′minutes
  • 6Dendoncker
  • 8Tielemans
  • 10T Hazard
  • 14De KetelaereSubstituted forJanuzajat 76′minutes
  • 23BatshuayiSubstituted forBentekeat 83′minutes
  • 7Vanaken

Substitutes

  • 1Kaminski
  • 11Trossard
  • 13Sels
  • 16Verschaeren
  • 17Origi
  • 18Januzaj
  • 19Sambi Lokonga
  • 20Benteke
  • 21Foket
  • 22Mangala
  • 24Bornauw
  • 25Van der Heyden

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