Republic of Ireland 2-2 Belgium: Late Browne header salvages draw
Alan Browne's late header salvaged a 2-2 friendly draw for the Republic of Ireland against an understrength Belgium at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
Belgium boss Roberto Martinez opted not to pick any players with more than 50 caps during this international break, meaning Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens, Yannick Carrasco and Thibaut Courtois were all left out.
Michy Batshuayi took advantage of the opportunity he was given with a great early goal, but Chiedozie Ogbene teed himself up for an overhead kick to equalise before half-time.
Hans Vanaken restored Belgium's advantage but substitute Browne powered in an 85th-minute header to secure a draw for Ireland in their centenary game.
Batshuayi fired Belgium into a 12th-minute lead when he cut inside of Seamus Coleman and curled a fine finish into the bottom-right corner from the left of the box.
The visitors struggled to create further chances despite controlling possession and their advantage vanished after Callum Robinson's cross was not dealt with and Ogbene converted an acrobatic finish.
Ireland would have moved in front two minutes after the restart were it not for a goal-line block from Jason Denayer to stop Robinson flicking James McClean's strike home.
Shane Duffy did well to deflect a shot from Batshuayi wide but the resulting corner was nodded in by Vanaken with the help of a deflection off Coleman.
FIFA's highest-ranked nation were unable to see out just a second win in five matches, though, as Browne's powerful header gave the Ireland fans late reason to cheer.
What does it mean? Experienced hands show their worth
While Martinez selected a number of younger players in his squad, it was two of the more experienced picks that took their chance to impress.
Batshuayi netted his 23rd international goal while Vanaken, who will be 30 by the time the World Cup comes around, showed he can provide valuable depth by setting up the opener before scoring himself.
Ogbene on form
Although some of the shine of his overhead kick was taken off by a deflection off Denayer, Ogbene's incredible ingenuity was undeniable. He also supplied a brilliant delivery for Browne's equaliser.
Coleman caught short
Ireland captain Coleman was disappointing in the centre of defence. He let Batshuayi by too easily on the opener and sent Vanaken's header into the back of the net.
Key Opta Stats:
- Belgium have only won one of their last five games (D2 L2), both scoring and conceding in all of these matches (nine goals scored and nine conceded).
- Republic of Ireland are unbeaten in their last seven matches in all competitions (W3 D4).
- The Boys in Green have scored 12 goals in their last five games, as many as they had in their previous 17 beforehand.
- Ogbene has scored in three of his six senior international caps; he has as many goals for his country this season as he does in 45 appearances for his club Rotherham United in 2021-22 (three).
- Batshuayi has scored 13 goals in his last 12 starts for Belgium, including five in his last four friendlies as a starter.
- Since the start of 2021, only De Bruyne (seven) has assisted more goals for the Red Devils in all competitions than Vanaken (five).
Belgium entertain Burkina Faso in another friendly on Tuesday, while Ireland are in action against Lithuania.