Belfast Telegraph

Danes strike late on to leave U21s with a mountain to climb

Denmark 2 Northern Ireland 1

On target: Jake Dunwoody drew Northern Ireland level
On target: Jake Dunwoody drew Northern Ireland level

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland under-21s suffered a painful defeat in Denmark last night when Jens Odgaard's stunning finish condemned the visitors to their first loss of the Euro 2021 qualifying campaign.

It looked as though Northern Ireland would earn a draw thanks to Jake Dunwoody's excellent strike but a piece of magic from substitute Odgaard put an end to that.

Just three games in, Ian Baraclough's team have a mountain to climb in their quest for qualification. The plan would have been to have five points at this stage but Northern Ireland only have two in the bank after a home match with group minnows Malta and away games in Finland and Denmark.

Only the top team from each group in Euro under-21 qualifying is guaranteed to make the finals. The best runners-up from the nine groups qualify automatically with the other eight second placed sides entering the play-offs.

Don't rule Baraclough's boys out, though. The manager showed in the last campaign that he can produce the unexpected when Northern Ireland defeated Spain away from home and were unlucky not to reach the Euro 2019 finals.

Next up is a trip to Romania on Monday night and Baraclough will be seeking a win there to move back on track.

Last night there wasn't much between the sides in the opening exchanges with Partick's Shea Gordon firing wide after 22 minutes in a rare attack.

Baraclough takes pride in set pieces at both ends of the pitch and will have been disappointed to go behind on the half hour from a corner which was swung in by Jacob Bruun Larsen with left-back Andreas Poulsen's powerful drive finding the net.

The Danes grew in confidence after that with Bruun Larsen and Nikolai Laursen going close. At the other end, David Parkhouse was denied by a fine save from Oliver Christensen after connecting with a Lewis Thompson cross.

In the second-half, Northern Ireland continued to make chances with Stoke star Dunwoody smashing home on 57 minutes after good work from Alfie McCalmont.

That was a massive boost for Baraclough's team. It was also a signal for Denmark to pour forward with their pressure finally telling on 86 minutes with Odgaard coming up with a spectacular overhead having previously been kept out by Conor Hazard.

Northern Ireland pressed for another equaliser but ultimately it was a disappointing evening for the visitors.

Denmark U21: Christensen, Anyembe, Nelsson, Sorensen, Poulsen (M Madsen, 79 mins), Olsen, Hjulmand (Odgaard 69), Nartey, Holse (Andersen, 69 mins), Laursen (N Madsen, 90 mins), Bruun Larsen. Unused subs: Vindahl-Jensen, Alves, Dreyer, Damsgaard, Rasmussen.

N Ireland U21: Hazard, Marron (Palmer, 78 mins), Toal, Balmer, Gordon (O'Mahony, 88 mins), A McCann, McCalmont, Boyd-Munce (McClean, 71 mins), Thompson, Parkhouse (L McCann, 71 mins), Dunwoody (Galbraith, 88 mins). Unused subs: Hughes, McClelland, Graham, O'Neill.

Referee: Donatas Rumsas (Lithuania)

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