Belgium manager Roberto Martinez praises Ireland performance in 2-2 draw 4 months ago

Belgium manager Roberto Martinez praises Ireland performance in 2-2 draw

"It was a difficult game."

Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez praised the Republic of Ireland's performance against the Red Devils on Saturday evening.

Advertisement

The two sides played out an entertaining 2-2 draw in a friendly at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

Belgium, the world's number one ranked international team, did not select any of their players with more than 50 caps in the match.

However, they still had plenty of talent on the pitch and twice took the lead. Yet, Ireland equalised twice and their performance impressed the visiting manager.

Advertisement

Ireland 2-2 Belgium.

Michy Batshuayi opened the scoring with a stunning strike after 12 minutes.

Martinez's side were in complete control of the match until 10 minutes before half-time when Ireland equalised thanks to Chiedozie Ogbene, who scored with an overhead kick.

Belgium went again ahead after an hour when Hans Vanaken scored with a free header in Ireland's penalty area from a Belgium corner-kick.

Advertisement

However, once again Stephen Kenny's side responded. With five minutes to go, Ogbene kept the ball in play out wide and crossed in for substitute Alan Browne to score a thumping header past Simon Mignolet.

Following the match, Martinez praised Ireland's pressing and intensity and spoke positively about the atmosphere created by the crowd at the Aviva Stadium.

Advertisement

Roberto Martinez on Ireland 2-2 Belgium.

"I'm always worried playing friendlies at international level," Martinez told reporters after the game.

"I thought that was anything but a friendly. It was a very meaningful game. The crowd made it a really, really good atmosphere."

Martinez, who has been Belgium's manager since 2016 and helped them finish third at the 2018 World Cup, admitted that Ireland disrupted his team in the final period of the match.

Advertisement

"I think that the last 15 minutes, the crowd and the emotion, Ireland on the front foot, pressing high, winning the ball high, that we didn't know how to impose ourselves," the former Everton coach said.

"We started the second half again dictating things, and were able to play through the line of pressure and then we scored the second goal.

"It was probably at that point that we should've been a bit more rational, and how to manage the game. And probably the last 10 minutes we allowed Ireland again to play with the momentum that they have."

Belgium's stars, such as Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne and Thibaut Courtois, were not selected for this international window as the team look to blood younger players and give the established players a rest in a busy period.

Martinez was grilled by Belgium journalists about the draw against Ireland, who are ranked 47th in the world, and asked if it showed that their national team isn't as good without their elite players.

The Spanish coach disputed that suggestion and maintained that there were positives from the match from their perspective, as Ireland provided them with a valuable test.

"I liked the attitude of coming to a place like here with a full crowd and a lot of momentum and we were able to stand firm," Martinez said, before brushing off a question about the crowd at the Aviva Stadium booing Thierry Henry.

"He's quite an experienced man. He understands. He wasn’t upset," Martinez said about Henry.

The France legend handled the ball against Ireland in a World Cup playoff in Paris in 2009 and is now is on Belgium's coaching staff.

Related links.