Impressive Randolph helps Ireland to draw

  • West Ham United goalkeeper starts Republic of Ireland's UEFA Euro 2016 opener
  • Randolph in fine form, only for own-goal to snatch a 1-1 draw for opponents Sweden
  • Ireland in Group E and have fixtures to come against favourites Belgium and Italy
Darren Randolph produced a fine individual performance as the Republic of Ireland were cruelly denied a UEFA Euro 2016 Group E victory over Sweden.

The West Ham United goalkeeper was in outstanding form against Zlatan Ibrahimovic and company in Paris, only for a freak own-goal from defender Ciaran Clark to secure the Swedes a 1-1 draw.

Earlier, Norwich City midfielder Wes Hoolahan – who pipped Randolph to the Man of the Match award – had fired Ireland into a deserved second-half lead.

The Hammers stopper was then called into action, making a fine save to prevent Clark from putting through his own net and commanding his penalty area in imperious fashion.

However, that man Ibrahimovic’s awkward cross was headed home by Aston Villa centre-back Clark, leaving Randolph no chance.

Ireland’s draw means they will likely need to beat either Italy or Belgium in their final two group-stage fixtures to reach the round of 16.

The Boys in Green face the fancied Belgians in Bordeaux on Saturday afternoon at 14.00 BST, before closing out the opening round against Angelo Ogbonna’s Italy in Lille next Wednesday evening at 20.00 BST.

Something will have to give for Martin O’Neill’s team to qualify, seeing Ireland have not beaten Belgium in 50 years, and their only previous win over Italy came through West Ham Academy graduate Ray Houghton’s famous goal at the 1994 FIFA World Cup finals in the United States.