Northern Ireland had little to play for other than pride, having collected only four points from their seven games in Group Three before yesterday, and after letting in the softest of goals with the whistle to start the game still ringing in the players' ears, Sammy McIlroy's side rallied in the second half to force a creditable draw.
It looked like a mission impossible facing the unbeaten group leaders, Denmark, with a squad heavily depleted by injuries to key players. While the Danes boasted a record of just one defeat in their previous 11 games, Northern Ireland had lost their last six. Without the likes of Steve Lomas, Neil Lennon and Gerry Taggart, McIlroy gave youth its head and called on Norwich's Phil Mulryne once again after his goal against the Czech Republic in their last match.
What Northern Ireland did not want was to concede an early goal, but Maik Taylor came for and missed Stig Tofting's throw-in in the third minute, Colin Murdock then headed the ball across his own area and Dennis Rommedahl was there to head home into the unguarded net.
The Irish tried to respond, and Thomas Sorensen had to be replaced by Peter Kjaer after a collision with Murdock. But McIlroy's side made little impression on the organised Danish defence. Murdock was having a night to forget and, after receiving a booking that will keep him out of Wednesday's match against Iceland in Belfast, nearly scored an own goal after 28 minutes. Jesper Gronkjaer, cutting a dash all night down the left-hand side, crossed into the box and Murdock directed his centre against a post before Romme-dahl shot wide of the target from the rebound.
Northern Ireland slowly pulled themselves back into the game after the break. Keith Gillespie was beginning to cause the veteran Jan Heintze some problems down the right before, in the 73rd minute, the Irish stunned the capacity crowd. The tenacious Mulryne won the ball before feeding Gillespie on the right. The Blackburn winger sent over a perfect cross for Mulryne to head home from six yards out.
Denmark 1 Northern Ireland 1
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