Euro 2020 qualifying was in full swing on Thursday night as the Republic of Ireland gained a priceless 1-1 draw at home against Switzerland.
Mick McCarthy’s men had gone behind to a second-half goal from Newcastle United’s Fabian Schar but hit back with a late equaliser from David McGoldrick – his first international goal – and now look good value for top spot in Group D.
Thursday also saw the likes of Italy, Spain, Denmark and Sweden all battle for points to make sure they’re in the hat for next summer’s showpiece tournament.
So, here are five things you may have missed from a busy night of football.
1. Italy survive scare to remain on track
Absent from the 2018 World Cup and generally unconvincing in the two tournaments before that, it’s been a tough old time for Italy. Their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign has been far more fruitful, however, with the Azzurri sitting pretty atop Group J with five wins from five, following their latest victory over Armenia.
These latest three points didn’t come easy, however, with Roberto Mancini’s side having to overcome an early goal from Alexander Karapetyan and it was only when Armenia’s hero was sent off after picking up a second yellow card that the Italians truly established their dominance in the game, eventually running out 3-1 winners. Goals from Andrea Belotti (x2) and substitute Lorenzo Pellegrini did the damage.
Italy have a very favourable qualifying group which should give this young, new-look side plenty of time to gel ahead of their major tournament return next year but they’ll need to be far more cold-blooded when that stage comes around.
2. Ramos takes another step up the ladder
Sergio Ramos doesn’t do things by halves, does he? The Real Madrid legend converted from the penalty spot once again on Thursday to put Spain 1-0 up at half-time away against Romania, after Dani Ceballos had been felled in the box. That strike moved Ramos to 10th in his country’s all-time goalscoring charts, level with Michel on 21, on what is his 166th cap for Spain. One more will see him equal Iker Casillas as La Roja’s most capped player of all time.
Sergio Ramos has now scored 21 senior international goals, equalling Míchel has the 10th top-scoring male in Spain's history.
Another from the spot. pic.twitter.com/imzY952tLs
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 5, 2019
But this is no mere defender or goalscorer we’re talking about, this is Sergio Ramos. He, of course, got himself booked for “excessive celebration” or, more accurately, giving it large in front of the Romanian supporters after certain sections had been showing some less than exemplary behaviour.
Spain had to battle hard for their three points in the end, with Florin Andone closing the gap after Paco Alcacer had doubled the advantaged. Diego Llorente’s late red card only made things more difficult but Roberto Moreno’s men held out.
Never change, Sergio, never change.
3. Eriksen double keeps Denmark in contention
Draws with Switzerland and Republic of Ireland in their opening two games had left Denmark unscathed but in desperate need of some wins in Group D. Those fears are now far in the distance as the Danes followed up their 5-1 victory over Georgia in June with a 6-0 breeze past Gibraltar on Thursday, with Spurs contract rebel Christian Eriksen bagging twice from the penalty spot.
The awarding of the second spot-kick was a little questionable, with Jack Sergeant appearing to win the ball fairly from Yussuf Poulsen, only for the referee to blow his whistle for a foul. Not that Eriksen will care now that he sits on 29 international goals.
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It’s still very much looking like it could be pot luck between Denmark, Republic of Ireland and Switzerland in Group D but these back-to-back wins have the Scandanavians in a strong position, with two of their next three qualifiers coming at home.
4. A tight game in a tight group
As we mentioned, Group D looks really, really tight. The Republic of Ireland, Denmark and Swizterland all headed into Thursday night unbeaten, with draws being handed out like sweets and the top three looking impossible to separate.
That trend looked set to end as the Irish succumb to a fine team goal from the Swiss, finished by Newcastle United’s Fabian Schar after the visitors had piled on the pressure during the second half. But Mick McCarthy’s side kept on pressing and probing for openings and after Glenn Whelan’s late wonder strike nearly broke the crossbar in two, David McGoldrick found the equaliser to lift the roof off the Aviva Stadium. The Sheffield United man is finally off the mark for his country in his 11th appearance.
1 – With their first shot on target in the second half, David McGoldrick has netted his first ever international goal for Republic of Ireland, in what is his 11th appearance for The Boys in Green. Response. #IRLSUI pic.twitter.com/5nFvrApJnk
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 5, 2019
Ireland remain top of the group, for now, but Denmark and Switzerland have one and two games in hand respectively over the leaders. With blows still to be traded between the trio, this is going down to the wire.
5. Lindelof on target as Sweden take an iron grip on second
If you’re looking for goalscorers in this current Swedish crop, you’ll probably go to Emil Forsberg, Marcus Berg or maybe even Andreas Granqvist from the penalty spot. You certainly wouldn’t be keeping an eye out for Victor Lindelof’s name popping up on the scoresheet.
But Thursday night’s trip to minnows Faroe Islands saw the Swedish race into a 4-0 half-time lead which, in the end, was enough to seal the points and give them an iron grip on second place in Group F.
JAAAA!! Han är tillbaka i landslaget, och gör mål direkt!! Lindelöf sätter 3-0! 🇸🇪🇸🇪 pic.twitter.com/GmP9nnumTl
— Svensk Fotboll (@svenskfotboll) September 5, 2019
And who was it firing in the third goal? Lindelof, of course, with the Man Utd centre-back firing right-footed into the bottom corner following a Robin Quaison corner. That’s an impressive four goals in 31 caps for Lindelof now, who has scored just one goal in 73 games during his time at Old Trafford.