Evan Ferguson misses penalty as Ireland hold Belgium to 0-0 draw

Evan Ferguson #9 of Ireland misses a penalty during the Republic of Ireland V Belgium, International friendly match at Aviva Stadium on March 23rd, 2024 in Dublin, Ireland. 

Evan Ferguson missed from the penalty spot in the 28th minute as Ireland and Belgium played out a stalemate.

Brighton striker Evan Ferguson missed a penalty as Ireland held Belgium to a 0-0 stalemate in Dublin on Saturday.

The draw means Belgium, fourth in the FIFA world rankings, extended their unbeaten run to 12 matches, a sequence stretching back to the 2022 World Cup.

The visitors, without the injured Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, enjoyed the bulk of possession but Ireland created the better chances, with debutant Sammie Szmodics going close on a number of occasions.

The home side, led by interim coach John O’Shea, had a golden opportunity to break the deadlock when Atletico Madrid midfielder Arthur Vermeeren was adjudged to have handled in the box and referee Rohit Saggi pointed to the spot.

Ferguson, who has gone four months without a goal, stepped up after a lengthy wait but slipped as he made contact with the ball and Nottingham Forest’s Matz Sels saved the 28th-minute penalty with his legs.

Ireland’s Chiedozie Ogbene dragged a right-foot shot across the face of goal seconds later and they went close again in the final minute of the half when Szmodics fired over.

Belgium boss Domenico Tedesco threw on Manchester City’s Jeremy Doku as a replacement for Leandro Trossard for the second half but the hosts threatened again, with Ferguson heading over.

Ireland goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher needed two attempts to claim a 50th-minute Lois Openda snapshot.

The home team continued to press but it took a good save by Kelleher to keep out Thomas Meunier’s strike after fellow substitute Dodi Lukebakio had broken free down the right and pulled the ball back 15 minutes from time.

Doku whistled a right-foot shoot just over and Openda’s optimistic appeals for a penalty were waved away as the game ultimately ended all square.

Belgium will face England at Wembley on Tuesday as they continue their build-up to the Euro 2024 finals.

Tedesco’s men have been grouped with Romania, Slovakia and either Ukraine or Iceland, who meet next week in a play-off final, at the tournament in Germany.

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