The Faroes Islands came from two goals behind, thanks to a double from Jóannes Bjartalíð, to salvage a memorable point in Luxembourg on June 14th.
In terms of team news, coach Håkan Ericson made four changes, with Sonni Nattestad coming in for the injured Odmar Færø, Heini Vatnsdal for the suspended Odmar Færø, René Shaki Joensen for Saturday’s match winner Jákup Andreasen, who was absent with studies, and captain Hallur Hansson returning in place of Patrik Johannesen.
After just two minutes, Luxembourg nearly took the lead when the dangerous Danel Sinani effort flew just wide of Gunnar Nielsen’s goal.
Moments later, the Faroes had a great chance of their own when Meinhard Olsen’s effort was hit straight at the Luxembourg keeper Anthony Moris after a swift counterattack from the Faroese players.
On 10 minutes, Deja Vu struck when Nielsen was judged to of brought down Gerson Rodrigues in the box, with Rodrigues slotting away the resulting penalty, exactly the same sequence as the reverse fixture last week!
However, the Faroe Islands were not to be deterred, and Jóannes Bjartalíð’s venomous effort was superbly tipped round the post by Moris.
Minutes later, another glorious chance fell to the Faroes when the increasingly busy Moris again saved from Klæmint Olsen’s header after a stunning Hallur Hansson cross.
Luxembourg went into half-time with an undeserved slender lead but with all to play for. This notion was dispelled just minutes after the restart when Leandro Barreiro doubled the lead after some sloppy Faroese defending. And that looked like the game settled.
Yet minutes later, Bjartalíð’s sweetly struck effort finally found the corner of Moris’s goal to open his international goalscoring account, and the comeback was firmly on. And just minutes later, an equaliser followed, Bjartalíð the man again, whose powerful speculative striker from far out deflected spectacularly into the Luxembourg net. No international goal in 20 caps for Bjartalíð, swiftly followed by two in three minutes, the wonders of this sport aye!
If the first goal sparked a reaction, the equaliser created pure delirium in the away ranks — a priceless reward for the loyal group of Faroese supporters who made the 1400-mile journey.
This euphoria was nearly elevated even higher when the assiduous Moris remarkably kept out substitute Rógvi Baldvinsson’s header from a Faroe’s corner.
But alas, a winner wasn’t meant to be, and the Faroes had to settle for a well-earned point that showcases the courage and resilience of Håkan Ericson’s side, and the manner of the comeback makes it almost feel like a victory against a talented Luxembourg side.
Here are my player ratings:
1) Gunnar Nielsen: 6/10 — Bit slow coming out when giving the penalty away, commanded his goal well other than that.
9) Gilli Rólantsson: 7.5/10 — Boundless energy up and down the right flank.
4) Heini Vatnsdal: 7/10 — Solid game if not as assertive as the missing Færø.
5) Sonni Nattestad: 7.5/10 — Poor for the second goal but handled everything else immensely.
3) Viljormur Davidsen: 7/10 — Unusually lax for the second goal, but other than that, he was his usual quality self.
7) Jóannes Bjartalíð: 9/10 (MOTM) — Best game at an international level, 2 goals, could have been more, was electric.
20) René Shaki Joensen: 7/10 — Lots of energy and endeavour.
16) Gunnar Vatnhamar: 7/10 — Did a lot of the dirty work in the middle of the park.
18) Meinhard Olsen: 8.5/10 — Another assist for the leveller; he could have also scored himself, the wingers going from strength to strength.
6) Hallur Hansson (C): 8/10 — The side’s engine showed his trademark tenacity and real quality on the ball as well.
11) Klæmint Olsen: 6.5/10 — Frustating period for the NSÍ man and missed a great chance before being replaced at half-time.
14) Jóan Símun Edmundsson (for Klæmint Olsen 45th minute): 7.5/10 — Gave the side real impetus; the team looked much better with him on the pitch.
8) Rógvi Baldvinsson (for Heini Vatnsdal 60th minute): 7.5/10 — Superb when coming on, didn’t give Luxembourg forward line a sniff, and almost grabbed a special winner.
19) Ári Mohr Jónsson (for Meinhard Olsen 73rd minute): N/A
15) Heðin Hansen (for Gilli Rólantsson 89th minute): N/A
2) Mads Boe Mikkelsen (for Jóannes Bjartalíð 89th minute): N/A
Håkan Ericson: 7.5/10 — A valuable clean sheet still eludes him, but the whole side played with a much more attractively expansive style today, indicated by the impressive 10 shots at Luxembourg’s goal. In addition, to respond so positively after going two goals down took a lot of character and intrepidity from him and the players.
With Lithuania losing 2-0 away to Turkey, there is now a four-point gap between the Faroes and the relegation spot. And with just two games to go, the incredible achievement of Nations League survival is edging closer.
Reflecting on the draw, defender Rógvi Baldvinsson stated: “Decent performance against a tough side. Getting a result away will always be satisfying, even if we are at a stage were we kind of expect points against some sides.”
Goalscorer and man of the match Jóannes Bjartalíð added: “I think it was a tight game where they maybe had the ball a little bit more, but we were more dangerous and create more dangerous chances. So, I would say it’s deserved that we get one point and if we were lucky, we could have had all three!”
International football now takes a break until the 22nd of September when the Faroe Islands travel to Vilinuis to face Lithuania in the penultimate Nations League match of the campaign.