Football | Emphatic Eriksen destroys Ireland’s World Cup dreams

Football | Emphatic Eriksen destroys Ireland’s World Cup dreams
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Jeff Hendrick lying on the ground, inconsolable.

James McClean wearing a shell-shocked expression.

The Danish players celebrating manically.

A child’s tears ruining his green face paint as he sobbed through ‘The Fields of Athenry’ with the remaining fans in the South Stand.

This was how Ireland’s World Cup qualification campaign ended, as the boys in green fell emphatically at the final hurdle.

Martin O’Neill’s men were hammered 5-1 at the Aviva, due to a Christian Eriksen hat-trick either side of a Cyrus Christie own goal and a Nicklas Bendtner penalty.

Shane Duffy had given the boys in green a dream start to the play-off second leg, rising highest to head home Robbie Brady’s free kick after just six minutes.

Daryl Murphy then found the side netting after a good cross from Cyrus Christie, before James McClean blasted a low effort wide of the far post following a nice pass from Robbie Brady.

However, two goals in three minutes handed the Danes the initiative, and Age Hareide’s side never looked back. Randolph had been forced into more than one smart save early on, but it was in the 29th minute that the visitors scored the first of five away goals.

Pione Sisto nutmegged Harry Arter after a short corner and produced a low cross, which was flicked on by Andreas Christensen. The ball deflected off the post and was inadvertently turned into his own net by Christie on the line.

If the first goal was an ugly one, Denmark’s second goal was a thing of beauty. Stephen Ward – who endured a torrid night – had a poor flick intercepted by Poulsen, who launched a Denmark counter attack.

Christian Eriksen – who dominated much of the buildup to the play-offs – was found on the edge of the box, and he curled a sublime first time shot into the top corner via the underside of the cross bar.

Martin O’Neill decided to sacrifice both Harry Arter and David Meyler at half time, replacing the midfield duo with Wes Hoolahan and Aiden McGeady, with Ireland needing two goals to progress.

However, this left gaps for Denmark to exploit, and Eriksen scored Denmark’s third with a delightful curling effort in the 63rd minute.

The Denmark playmaker completed his hat-trick with an emphatic driven finish into the top corner, after Stephen Ward’s woeful attempt at a clearance fell to the Spurs midfielder on the edge of the box.

Shane Long was introduced for the dying minutes, but it was the Danes who grabbed the sixth goal of the game.

James McClean conceded a penalty, and substitue Nicklas Bendtner sent the impressive Darren Randolph the wrong way, much to the delight of the travelling Danish fans behind the goal.

The referee put Ireland out of their misery shortly afterwards, and the players were visibly distraught and dejected after an awful performance in Dublin.

“We were well beaten in the end, no question about that. We got off to a great start,” Martin O’Neill told RTÉ Sport afterwards.

“The second goal might have made a big, big difference. However we conceded two really sloppy goals within the period of a couple of minutes.

However, in another tense interview with Tony O’Donoghue, O’Neill was adamant that Ireland can come back from this humiliating setback.

“No it’s not very hard to come back from this. We’re capable of coming back from it. We can come back again.

“This is tough. This is really tough. We find it tough. We are usually playing against sides with superior quality. We have a great old spirit.”

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