Harry Arter marked his return to Republic of Ireland action with a vital goal-line clearance as Martin O’Neill’s men opened their Nations League account with a drab 0-0 draw against Denmark.
The Cardiff midfielder, who made himself unavailable for his country for last month’s opener against Wales following a summer bust-up with assistant manager Roy Keane, came to Ireland’s rescue to deny Denmark skipper Simon Kjaer what would have been a winning goal.
Denmark enjoyed the better of a game in which genuine chances were at a premium in the absence of injured talisman Christian Eriksen, and although the bulk of a crowd of 41,220 were left frustrated – the Republic have now scored only nine goals in their last 12 games – they at least emerged with some reward for their efforts.
However, they remain bottom of Group Four in League B ahead of Wales’ visit to the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday night, when O’Neill will hope for significantly more as he targets a first competitive victory since his side’s World Cup qualifier win in Cardiff 12 months ago.
Arter was handed a start on his return, as for the first time was Wolves defender Matt Doherty, whose inclusion at right wing-back with James McClean operating on the left meant a switch into midfield for Cyrus Christie.
That in turn allowed Jeff Hendrick to support striker Shane Long, although ultimately to limited effect.
With Eriksen missing from the Denmark side and Ireland adapting to a new shape, the fireworks of the last meeting between the teams, a 5-1 World Cup play-off romp for the Danes in Dublin 11 months ago, were sadly lacking.
The most notable action in the first half came at either end of the 45 minutes with Hendrick sparking a mass confrontation when, with Denmark midfielder Thomas Delaney apparently attempting to put the ball out of play to allow Arter to have treatment, the Burnley midfielder robbed him and raced in on goal before shooting wide.
Shane Duffy looped a 39th-minute header wide of Kasper Schmeichel’s far post and Pione Sisto clipped the woodwork after cutting inside Doherty and Christie in stoppage time, but that was as good as it got.
Delaney and Lasse Schone saw plenty of the ball in the middle of the park but without Eriksen’s inspiration, they were unable to provide his replacement Kasper Dolberg and strike-partner Yussuf Poulsen with meaningful service.
Likewise, Republic frontman Long found himself too often isolated to make an impact on the game.
Enda Stevens’ arrival as a half-time substitute for Callum O’Dowda allowed McClean to push into a more advanced role, but it was the visitors who were dominating possession as the second half unfolded.
They very nearly made the pressure tell 13 minutes after the restart when Kjaer glanced Schone’s corner towards the far post, but Arter was in the right place at the right time to clear off the line.
But it was Ireland who might have snatched the lead with 18 minutes remaining when Christie ran on to Long’s lay-off and thumped in a rising shot which Schmeichel had to beat away.
O’Neill’s men enjoyed their best period of the game as time ran down, but Randolph had to make late saves from Martin Braithwaite and Delaney to ensure it finished all square, although Duffy was aggrieved not to be awarded a stoppage time penalty after he felt he had been bundled to the ground.