Goals from Chiedozie Ogbene and Alan Browne saw Ireland twice come from behind against the number one-ranked side in the world to secure a well-earned 2-2 draw with Belgium at the Aviva Stadium.

Michy Batshuayi handed the visitors the lead against the run of play in the 12th minute before Ogbene equalised in style nine minutes before the break.


The stylish, if underperforming, visitors then went ahead again in the 59th minute as Hans Vanaken header home from a corner.

However, Stephen Kenny's side never stopped believing and grabbed a deserved leveller four minutes from time as substitute Browne crashed a header home to share the spoils in front of a boisterous full house at the Lansdowne Road arena.

A bright Ireland start in sparkling spring sunshine, the orange trimming on the latest Umbro edition apt for the occasion – the front three of Ogbene, Jason Knight and Callum Robinson bringing the energy in the opening exchanges, keeping the play inside the Belgium half for extended spells.

Michy Batshuayi lashes home the opener

Thorgan Hazard's cross-field ball, that went out for a throw-in, summed up the first ten minutes for Roberto Martinez's side.

And then, out of nothing, Belgium took the lead, as Batshuayi picked up the ball wide on the left after Hans Vanaken helped the ball across midfield.

With seemingly nothing on, Batshuayi casually skipped inside the approaching Seamus Coleman and cut between the Everton man and the retreating Matt Doherty, before unleashing a stinging curled effort that flew past Caoimhin Kelleher into the far corner.

In truth, the goal knocked the confidence right out of the Ireland side as the visitors started to take control of the game, with their accurate and varied passing stretching Stephen Kenny’s side.

Another Batshuayi shot in the 23rd minute flew into the side-netting, while Kenny’s decision to name three in attack was now starting to look a touch naive against the world’s best, albeit their second string.

The silenced home support were suitably mesmerised until some clever big screen directing beamed a close-up of Belgium assistant coach Thierry Henry around the ground, resulting in a reverberation of booing. Monsieur Henri carried on regardless.

There was 31 minutes on the clock before Ireland gained any sort of momentum and it came from an unlikely source, as John Egan burst forward to begin an attack – the Sheffield United defender stayed forward hoping to attack a ball that never arrived into the box.

Two minutes later, James McClean fired a deflected effort wide following some good hold-up play by Ogbene and at last, Ireland had something to work with – alas, the corner was batted away by Simon Mignolet.

Chiedozie Ogbene volleys home the equaliser

But seconds later, the stadium erupted, as Ogbene’s acrobatic effort flew into the back of the net.

It all came from Matt Doherty eagerness to keep the ball in play, as the Spurs man wrapped his foot around a ball that was destined to go over the end line, before Robinson picked it up on the left and helped it into the six-yard box.

Shane Duffy’s mere presence and Knight’s knock-down prevented the ball from leaving the penalty area and Ogbene found himself with time to take a touch before bicycle-kicking it goalwards – an apparent deflection off the arm of Jason Denayer took it past the keeper as Ireland got back in the game.

In the 41st minute, Ireland attacked again, as this time it was Belgium who could not get going following the goal, as Knight slipped an excellent ball down the line for McClean. Another corner resulted and while it led to little, it kept the pressure on the visitors and kept the crowd in full voice, standing up for the boys in green, as it happens.

Arthur Theate chopped Ogbene down a minute before the break, allowing Ireland to work the ball cleverly to the back post as Duffy arrived unmarked, however, an alert Mignolet came and collected and that was that for the opening half.

Ireland should have taken the lead inside two minutes of the second half as Belgium made a mess of playing out from the back, with an alert Coleman working the ball to Knight inside the box.

A last-gasp clearance prevented Robinson from tapping into an empty net as the ball was squared across the face, and the West Brom man was there again to cleverly help it back on target moments later as Ireland kept the pressure on – this time the flicked effort was cleared off the line by Denayer.

Three minutes later, Ireland again went on the attack as Hendrick’s incisive pass put Knight in on goal. With the angle narrowing, the Derby County man looked to beat the keeper at his near post but the shot was blocked.

But it was a confident and energetic start to the second period for Kenny’s charges, who limited Belgium to the odd burst forward, with Batshuayi’s 57th-minute deflected effort the best they could manage.

The resulting corner, however, would lead to Belgium’s second goal, as an unmarked Vanaken directed his header downwards, and it took a fortuitous flick off the Ireland captain to help it home.

All of the good work undone by some slack marking in the box from the set-piece, and this time the Ireland reaction would have to be more immediate with the game creeping into the final third.

It was.

Ireland got back on the front foot two minutes later with McClean and Robinson linking up as the latter cut inside two Belgium jerseys to test Mignolet from the edge of the box, forcing a good save.

Alan Browne was the Irish hero

Browne and Will Keane were sent on for the final 15 as Ireland maintained their attacking intentions, as Ogbene's header on goal was lacking power.

Keane then made an immediate impact as he raced in behind Dedryck Boyata in the 80th minute only for a desperate recovering tackle by the defender taking the ball off his toe on the edge of the six-yard box.

With five minutes to go, Ogbene was played down the right by Doherty and while the pass looked to have been overhit, the former Cork City man maintained the chase and somehow kept the ball in play.

With time to look up, Ogbene clipped a clever ball into the box as the green jerseys populated the area and it was last to arrive, Browne, who would meet the ball at full tilt and power home a header from eight yards out.

No more than the home side deserved for their endeavours throughout, and while they pushed for a winner as the game moved into injury time, the final whistle would arrive as the crowd remained jubilant from the equaliser that felt like a winning strike in this most worthwhile friendly international fixture.

Republic of Ireland: Caoimhin Kelleher; Seamus Coleman (capt), Shane Duffy, John Egan; Matt Doherty, James McClean (Ryan Manning 80), Jeff Hendrick (Alan Browne 76), Josh Cullen; Jason Knight (Will Keane 76), Chiedozie Ogbene, Callum Robinson (Troy Parrott 90)

Belgium: Simon Mignolet; Dedryck Boyata, Jason Denayer, Arthur Theate (Orel Mangala 75), Alexis Saelemaekers (Thomas Foket HT); Thorgan Hazard, Leander Dendoncker, Youri Tielemans (capt), Hans Vanaken, Michy Batshuayi (Christian Benteke 83), Charles De Ketelaere (Adnan Januzaj 75)

Referee: Nicolas Walsh (SCO)