Denmark 0 Northern Ireland 0: Sanchez sends message to doubters

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The Independent Online

Lawrie Sanchez's players provided a suitable response to the ongoing whispering campaign that threatens his position as the Northern Ireland coach. The visitors' goal came under sustained pressure but they were able to ride their luck to earn a creditable draw in Denmark.

Sanchez made one change to the side that stunned Spain last month as he aimed to build on that result. The goalkeeper Maik Taylor, who came on as a substitute in the amazing comeback, played from the start at the Parken Stadium.

The visitors' elevation to No 58 in the world rankings has raised expectations among their supporters and 3,000 made the journey in the hope of seeing another feisty performance. But it was Denmark who stormed out of the gate when Peter Lovenkrands headed wide from a good position. Martin Jorgensen was being given too much room and powered in a shot after nine minutes that stung Taylor's fingers. The keeper then had his fingers rapped, picking up a booking for taking too long to make a clearance.

The Danes continued to press and it almost paid off when Jon Dahl Tomasson headed Niclas Jensen's cross narrowly wide in the 17th minute. Northern Ireland had to wait the best part of half an hour to register an effort, when Kyle Lafferty turned quickly 25 yards out but Thomas Sorensen was able to take his effort comfortably.

The visitors were fortunate in the 42nd minute when Jorgensen's effort from the edge of the area was deflected to safety. Then Jonny Evans cleared the ball two yards out after Taylor could only parry Thomas Kahlenberg's attempt as the visitors limped to half-time. Burley's Michael Duff had picked up a yellow card which means he is suspended for the match against Latvia on Wednesday.

The visitors were the first to impress after the break with a David Healy free-kick from 30 yards narrowly clearing the bar. Jorgensen hit back at the other end when he cut across the area only to see his shot go the wrong side of the post.

Denmark started to call the tune again but lacked a finishing touch and were then forced to end Sorensen's day as the Aston Villa keeper injured his shoulder after a challenge from Evans. But the Danes pressed on with Kahlenberg whistling a shot past Taylor and the post.

The substitute keeper Jesper Christiansen then betrayed his nerves, dropping a corner from Keith Gillespie but Healy was unable to take advantage. Aaron Hughes was perfectly positioned in the 82nd minute to head away a goalbound shot from Claus Jensen and Daniel Agger cleared the bar as Northern Ireland held out for a point.

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