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Ireland relinquish early lead as World Cup dreams are dashed in Dublin

Journal.ie logo Journal.ie 15/11/2017 Paul Dollery
a group of people watching a football ball on a field: Christian Eriksen celebrates after scoring his first goal. © James Crombie Christian Eriksen celebrates after scoring his first goal.

(Denmark win 5-1 on aggregate)

– Paul Dollery reports from the Aviva Stadium

IRELAND WILL BE absent for a fourth consecutive World Cup after their bid to qualify for next summer’s tournament in Russia ended in bitter disappointment tonight in Dublin.

The first leg of this World Cup play-off with Denmark failed to produce a goal in Copenhagen on Saturday, but just over six minutes were on the clock tonight when Shane Duffy headed Ireland into the lead. Five more goals were to follow before the full-time whistle blew, but unfortunately for Ireland they all went the way of the visitors.

Ireland © PA Ireland

Denmark struck twice in the space of three first-half minutes to turn the tie in their favour. An unfortunate own goal from Cyrus Christie had them in the driving seat via the away goals rule, before Christian Eriksen put daylight between the teams.

Ireland called upon Wes Hoolahan and Aiden McGeady at the break, but their hopes of getting back into the game effectively ended just after the hour-mark when Eriksen showed why he’s widely regarded as one of world football’s top talents by curling in a sublime strike from just outside the Ireland box.

Ireland © PA Ireland

The Tottenham Hotspur playmaker completed his hat-trick in the 74th minute, before substitute Nicklas Bendtner scored from the penalty spot to cap a comprehensive victory for the Danes, who confirmed their status as the final European team to book tickets to Russia. For Ireland, the wait to appear at a first World Cup since 2002 will extend until Qatar 2020 at least.

With David Meyler available again having served a one-match suspension for last Saturday’s first leg at Parken Stadium, the Hull City midfielder was restored to the Ireland team and regained the captain’s armband from Ciaran Clark. In the only change made by Martin O’Neill, Callum O’Dowda was the player to make way.

© Reuters

The Danish side showed two changes. Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen got the nod in defence at the expense of Peter Ankersen, while Yussuf Poulsen replaced Andreas Cornelius in attack.

Ireland were criticised after last weekend’s opening act for their reluctance to offer an attacking threat, but with another draw not sufficient for them to advance, there was certainly a sense of purpose about the home side from the outset this evening.

It wasn’t quite Roy Keane on Marc Overmars, but Harry Arter’s meaty challenge on Pione Sisto signalled Ireland’s intentions as they went in search of a breakthrough. Moments later it arrived, unsurprisingly with Shane Duffy getting on the end of a set piece.

After Robbie Brady floated a free-kick into the Danish box from just inside Ireland’s half, the already-deafening noise inside the Aviva Stadium shot up several decibels when Nicolai Jorgensen’s failed clearance fell kindly for Duffy, who rose high to head home.

Darren Randolph was Ireland’s man of the match in Copenhagen and he was called into action twice in as many minutes to keep the Danes out. Shortly after producing a superb stop to deny William Kvist, the Middlesbrough goalkeeper pushed away Sisto’s half-volley.

Midway through the opening period, Ireland came close to doubling their lead. Cyrus Christie did well to surge forward down the right before sending in a cross for Daryl Murphy. The Nottingham Forest striker got a good connection on the ball but his effort clipped the side netting, much to the relief of the 2,400 Danish supporters situated behind the goal at the Havelock Square end of the ground.

The visiting fans were fearing the worst again just two minutes later when Ireland conjured up a rare but magnificent passing movement down the left. It culminated with Robbie Brady releasing James McClean, whose shot from a difficult angle went close but was always drifting away from Kasper Schmeichel’s far post.

Despite going so close to increasing their advantage, the tie turned against Ireland during a three-minute spell around the half-hour mark when Denmark beat Randolph twice to register a couple of vital away goals and leave the home side with a mountain to climb.

First, Sisto picked up a short corner wide on the left and cleverly beat Arter. The Celta Vigo attacker sent a low cross into the six-yard box and Andreas Christensen poked it goalwards. The ball struck the post but in his attempt to clear the danger, Christie inadvertently turned the ball into his own net in an admittedly difficult situation to deal with.

That goal gave Denmark the upper hand but they made Ireland’s task even greater in the 32nd minute. With Stephen Ward caught in possession by Yussuf Poulsen, the Danes broke quickly. Poulsen found Jorgensen, who teed up Christian Eriksen on the edge of the box. The Tottenham star finished emphatically off the underside of the crossbar.

With Ireland now requiring at least two goals to progress, Martin O’Neill withdrew David Meyler and Harry Arter at half-time and introduced Wes Hoolahan and Aiden McGeady in a bid to increase his side’s attacking threat.

Ten minutes after the restart, Duffy got his head to Robbie Brady’s corner but Schmeichel saved comfortably. Ireland continued to search for an opening but their hopes of keeping the tie alive were dashed on 63 minutes when Eriksen delightfully steered home from the edge of the box, leaving Randolph with no chance.

Eriksen’s hat-trick arrived in the 74th minute, the 25-year-old hammering home after Ward failed to clear Jorgensen’s cross. Long had Ireland’s best chance but lifted the ball over the crossbar after being played in by Hoolahan, before Bendtner came off the bench and rounded off the scoring with a penalty in the final minute of normal time after the former Arsenal striker was brought down in the box by McClean.

IRELAND: Darren Randolph; Cyrus Christie, Shane Duffy, Ciaran Clark (Shane Long, 71), Stephen Ward; Jeff Hendrick, David Meyler (Wes Hoolahan, HT), Harry Arter (Aiden McGeady, HT), Robbie Brady; James McClean, Daryl Murphy.

DENMARK: Kasper Schmeichel; Andreas Christensen, Simon Kjaer, Andreas Bjelland, Jens Stryger Larsen (Peter Ankersen, 54); William Kvist, Thomas Delaney, Christian Eriksen; Yussuf Poulsen, Nicolai Jorgensen (Nicklas Bendtner, 84), Pione Sisto.

REFEREE: Szymon Marciniak (Poland)

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