Northern Ireland gave its fans a reason to celebrate again after a disappointing Euro 2024 qualification campaign. They ended the poor campaign in Belfast with a 2-0 victory over Denmark.
Michael O’Neill’s team finished their campaign with a bang after scoring two second-half goals.
Charles struck the post in the early stages before NI goalkeeper Conor Hazard made two good saves just before half-time.
Before Monday’s match, the Danes already had their Euro Finals spot secured.
After beating Slovenia in Friday’s match, Denmark rested some of their biggest players for Saturday’s game at Windsor Park. Rasmus Hojlund (Manchester United) and Christian Eriksen were already out due to injury.
The much-needed win for Northern Ireland was sweeter for players and fans alike, as the Green and White Army burst into life during the game’s second half, even though there wasn’t anything more at stake than pride.
The Northern Ireland team, which has been mostly young and inexperienced throughout the campaign, had seven losses from nine matches. Their only points came from their two victories over San Marino.
O’Neill has had to deal with a number of injuries that have affected his team. He was given a second chance to manage the squad, and he held out hope of qualifying for Euro 2016 before these injuries began to take their toll.
Northern Ireland’s goal came on 52 minutes from a superb passing move that went from left to the right. Price finished it off beautifully to provide a high-point for Windsor fans, who enjoyed the moment and created an atmosphere more like O’Neill’s early days in charge.
Jamal Lewis, a wing-back from the United States of America (USA), started off the play with a neat move down the left. He then played a beautiful ball to Dion Charles who found Shea Charles.
As space opened up, and with the crowd encouraging him to take a shot, Price showed the poise for which he is known to have. He slipped a ball over to Price on the left, who then beat Schmeichel’s near-post goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, using a low, well-hit shot. This was his second goal for the United States.
Nine minutes before the end, the home team’s second goal came when Conor McMenamin crossed low from the left. Charles met it at the far post. His double in March against San Marino had given the season a good start after O’Neill returned.
NI makes a strong start ahead of the Danes
For the second time this season, Northern Ireland started the game well. Dale Taylor, Price and Charles worked extremely hard behind Charles, in what looked to be a similar 5-2-2-1 configuration.
The early advantage of Northern Ireland was due to Taylor on the left, and Price on the right. They were inches away from taking the lead by the eighth minute.
After the Danes had failed to clear the ball, Charles grabbed it. He took a good first touch and then unleashed a left-footed strike that appeared to be heading for the corner of the goal before hitting the inner post.
Two minutes later they threatened again when Bolton Wanderers defender Eoin Toal met a cross by captain-for-the-night Paddy McNair but his header at the back post flew just wide.
As the second half progressed the Danes began to dominate the game. Brentford’s Mathias Jensen set the pace for the team and started to make a series of dangerous forward passes.
Crystal Palace’s Joachim Andersen’s shot took a deflection from Matthew O’Riley to bounce just outside the goal.
Kasper Dolberg probably could have scored when he slid into a corner to receive a cross from Victor Kristiansen, but the striker lost his way and sent his shot over.
Conor Hazard made two great saves in his place as Bailey Peacock Farrell was injured. The first one, a brilliant reaction save to stop Andersen, and the second, a similar reaction save to prevent a Morten Hjulmand 20-yard strike.
Toal missed a great opportunity to score seven minutes into second half, when he planted his back-post head inches away from Lewis’s cross. But it wasn’t long until Lewis set up the first goal for a joyful Windsor Park event.