A young Northern Ireland side produced a stunning performance to beat Denmark 2-0 at Windsor Park thanks to goals from Isaac Price and Dion Charles.
The visiting Danes had already secured qualification prior to kick-off, while Northern Ireland knew that their chances of reaching next summer’s European Championships had long gone.
But a team with an average age of just 24 put in a brilliant display, going closest to scoring in a goalless first half, before producing two moments of magic on the counter-attack after the interval to leave manager Michael O’Neill beaming with pride.
First, on the hour, Jamal Lewis did brilliantly down the left flank to beat a couple of players and launch a break, finding Charles who in turn picked out Shea Charles in space. The crowd were on their feet as the break developed, and there were raucous celebrations when Charles played in Price, whose drilled shot beat Kasper Schmeichel at his near post.
Denmark responded by bringing the experience off the bench and pushing hard for an equaliser. But it was the home side who got the decisive second goal.
George Saville’s raking ball forward was perfectly weighted to find the run of substitute Conor McMenamin, who did superbly to bring the ball down, get outside his man, and pick out a perfect cross for Charles to finish unmarked at the far post.
Denmark finish in top spot in the group, level on points with Slovenia, while it will be Finland who progress to the play-offs.
Isaac Price of Northern Ireland, 14, celebrates with teammates after scoring his side’s first goal during the UEFA EURO 2024 Qualifying Round Group H match between Northern Ireland and Denmark at the National Stadium at Windsor Park in Belfast.
Image credit: Getty Images
Talking Point – The future is bright
Northern Ireland named an experimental side due to a combination of injuries and their inability to qualify from Group H, but manager Michael O’Neill will have benefited hugely from seeing his youngsters in action.
Some of the performances from his precocious team were superb, with quality on the ball a real feature of the night, particularly on the counter-attack.
Denmark weren’t at their best, but the signs are very promising for Northern Ireland’s new generation, and it will be worth keeping an eye on how their next qualification campaign unfolds.
Player Of The Match – Shea Charles
The talented 20-year-old was a force in central midfield in this game, making great decisions throughout and holding his own against some experienced opponents. His assist for the first goal might have looked simple, but the way that he drew in defenders and timed his pass set it up perfectly for Price to shoot.
The youngster has been making quite a splash at Southampton this season, and it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see him become a staple member of both his club and national teams moving forward.
Northern Ireland: Hazard 8, Brown 7, McNair 7, Toal 7, Hume 8, Lewis 8, Saville 7, Shea Charles 9, Price 8, Dion Charles 8, Taylor 7. Subs: McMenamin 8, Smyth 7, Thompson 7, Washington 7
Denmark: Schmeichel 3, Kristiansen 6, Andersen 7, Christensen 7, Kristensen 7, Lindstrom 5, Jensen 6, Hjulmand 7, O’Riley 6, Daramy 7, Dolberg 5. Subs: Poulsen 5, Hojbjerg 6, Delaney 6, Vestergaard 6, Wind 6
So close to an opener for Northern Ireland. A quick ball forward catches Denmark cold and Charles makes a terrific connection with his shot, beating Schmeichel but seeing the ball cannon back off the upright.
It’s completely against the run of play but Northern Ireland have the lead. It’s a really terrific goal, with Lewis, Dion Charles and Shea Charles involved in a scything move, expertly finished by Price, beating Schmeichel at his near post. 1-0!
Oh my word! Northern Ireland make it 2-0 and it’s another absolute belter of a goal from the home side. A sweeping move comes to a dramatic end when McMenamin tees up Dion Charles. Majestic.
The Windsor Park crowd hadn’t seen many goals in the campaign, with a 2-0 win over San Marino the only previous goals from the four preceding home matches in Group H prior to this encounter.