Republic of Ireland 1-1 Sweden: Clark own goal sees spoils shared as Irish start with spirited performance

The Republic of Ireland started their Euro 2016 campaign by drawing 1-1 to a Sweden side who, for the majority, were outclassed.

Republic of Ireland 1-1 Sweden: Clark own goal sees spoils shared as Irish start with spirited performance
Larsson wheels away after Clark heads into his own net (photo: Reuters)
Republic of Ireland
1 1
Sweden
Republic of Ireland: Randolph; Coleman, Clark, O'Shea, Brady; Hendrick, Whelan, McCarthy (McGeady 85'); Hoolahan (Keane 78'); Long, Walters (McClean 64').
Sweden: Isaksson; Lustig (Johansson 45'), Granqvist, Lindelof, Olsson; Larsson, Kallstrom, Lewicki (Edkal 86'), Forsberg; Berg (Guidetti 59'), Ibrahimovic.
SCORE: 1-0, Hoolahan 48'. 1-1, Clark OG 71'.
REFEREE: Milorad Mazic - Booked: McCarthy, Lindelof, Whelan
INCIDENTS: Euro 2016 fixture contested at the Stade de France, Paris.

A spirited performance from the Republic of Ireland saw them draw 1-1 with Sweden in their Euro 2016 opener, in a game where Martin O'Neill's side showed a huge amount of character and quality. 

Dominating the first half, Ireland got their opener just three minutes into the second half thanks to Wes Hoolahan's fine finish, but they couldn't claim all three points, a Ciaran Clark own goal seeing that the game ended level. 

Ireland better from the get-go

Ireland certainly had the finest effort of the early stages, with Derby County midfielder Jeff Hendrick forcing a fine save from Swedish 'keeper Andreas Isaksson. A header out from a long throw found Hendrick, his low half-volley tipped brilliantly around the post by the goalkeeper.

They threatened again from a set-piece soon after, John O'Shea stretching desperately to get on the end of Ciaran Clark's glancing header at the back post, but he couldn't quite make contact.

Still, Ireland poured forward, well aware that an opening goal could make the world of difference, given that they were contending with Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the other end. 

Ireland kept Ibrahimovic quiet in the first half (photo: Getty Images)
Ireland kept Ibrahimovic quiet in the first half (photo: Getty Images)

Crossbar hit not once, but twice

Twice, the crossbar was hit around the half hour mark, first by Robbie Brady, a powerful long range effort from him skimming the top of the bar. Hendrick then hit the woodwork with another good effort, curling the ball towards goal from 25-yards out, with half of the stadium thinking it was going in. 

Ibrahimovic flicked the ball over the bar as it dropped down from a corner, whilst Shane Long wanted a penalty for a tug by Victor Lindelof, but nothing was doing as the two teams went into half-time at 0-0. 

You'd have been forgiven for thinking that Ireland would struggle to implement the same attacking style after the restart, as Sweden would re-group. That couldn't have been further from the truth, with Martin O'Neill's side taking the lead in the 48th minute.

Hoolahan opens the scoring

Seamus Coleman did brilliantly as he surged inside from the right wing, sending a teasing ball back over the Swedish backline, with Hoolahan arriving right on cue to steer the ball into the bottom right hand corner. 

Hoolahan's goal sent the fans wild (photo: Reuters)
Hoolahan's goal sent the fans wild (photo: Reuters)

Whilst mass scenes of celebration followed, they did almost lose their heads straight away, and narrowly escaped conceding immediately after. Failing to deal with an onslaught of crosses, Ireland were hugely lucky to see Emil Forsberg strike the ball wide with the goal at his mercy from six yards out, after a generous bounce of the ball towards him. 

Ibrahimovic was growing into the game, striking wide with a half-volley as he got across Darren Randolph's front post. That miss didn't matter too much, as the big striker played a key part in the equaliser minutes later. 

1-1, unlucky Clark...

Shuffling into the box down the left channel, Ibrahimovic couldn't be halted as he sent a dangerous ball across the six-yard box, Ciaran Clark helpless as he nodded it into his own net when attempting to clear. 

Glen Whelan was probably lucky to only be booked at things spiced up a little following the equaliser, as his challenge flattened Forsberg, with the referee aided by his assistant after not seeing it himself.

Ireland were stuggling to deal with Sweden's left side as Coleman was left isolated, Martin Olsson allowed to cross from full-back, a low ball flashing across the face but evading everyone as it did so. 

Despite losing their focus somewhat after the goal, Ireland did enough to avoid defeat, and after such a positive first 48 minutes, will be feeling slightly more confident about possible qualification to the last 16.