Christian Eriksen fires hat-trick as Denmark break Irish hearts
World Cup qualifying play-off, Aviva Stadium – Ireland 1 (Duffy 6’) Denmark 5 (Christie 29’ og, Eriksen 32’ 63’ 74’, Bendtner 90') – Denmark win 5-1 on aggregate
Christian Eriksen scored a spectacular hat-trick as Denmark came from a goal down to outclass Ireland and book their place at the World Cup finals.
The game was everything the first leg was not, starting quickly and never letting up. It took just six minutes for Ireland to edge in front, Shane Duffy nodding home after Nicolai Jorgensen failed to clear Robbie Brady's free-kick.
And Ireland had chances to increase their lead, Daryl Murphy and James McClean both coming close. But then on 29 minutes, Pione Sisto diddled Harry Arter and set Andreas Christensen to shoot; he hit the post, but on the line, Cyrus Christie could only push into his own net.
Ireland now needed to score twice without reply, a feat which never looked likely, and brilliant finishes from Eriksen - the first placed from outside the box, the second annihilated - reinforced Danish superiority, before Nicklas Bendtner sealed the win, and a fantastic attacking performance, with a late penalty.
Denmark celebrate victoryGetty Images
Were Ireland too negative? When a side loses so conclusively, it's tempting to say that there was nothing they could have done. But Ireland got themselves a lead and almost increased it; perhaps they might've had a better chance of winning if Shane Long had started, because Daryl Murphy did more or less nothing in either leg. On the other hand, Ireland were fourth seeds in their group and did well even to reach this stage.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Christian Eriksen (Denmark): One of the best players around, his movement was too much for Ireland and his finishing was absolutely devastating. A class act.
Christian Eriksen (Denmark)Getty Images
6’ - GOAL! Ireland 1-0 Denmark (Duffy). What a goal! What a goal! Ireland win a free-kick just inside their own half, which Brady drills towards the middle of the box. There, Jorgensen chucks a leg at it, sends the ball backwards, and Schmeichel isn't sure whether to come or stay. He comes, but he can't get there before Duffy, who nods over him and in!
Shane Duffy of the Republic of Ireland celebratesGetty Images
22’ - ALMOST TWO! Christie wins a tackle close to halfway, bursts forward, and curves a lovely cross into the box, where Murphy has stolen ahead of Kjaer at the near post, leaping into a flick on the run. It looks a lot like he's deflected the ball in at the near post, but actually finds the outside of the side-netting; still, that was very nice play.
24’ - CLOSE! This is much, much better than the first game, and Ireland nearly score again! Brady advances down the left, and slides a pass inside to meet the run of McClean, who looks marginally offside. But the ref sees no such thing, and from a tight angle, he lashes a low shot just wide of the far post!
29’ - GOAL! Ireland 1-1 Denmark (Christie own-goal). Eriksen goes short with the corner to Sisto,who finds himself one-on-one with Arter. Arter does his best to jockey but no one comes out to help so he winds up getting megged and then Sisto crosses low for Christensen, who pokes goalwards; it looks like the shot might just go wide, but it actually clips the inside of the post, then hits Christie, defending it, and trickles in. Denmark are ahead in the tie!
Andreas Christensen of Denmark celebratesGetty Images
32’ - BRILLIANT GOAL! Ireland 1-2 Denmark (Eriksen). This is over! Ireland now need to score twice! Ward takes a pass on halfway, tires to get wide by nicking it away from Poulsen, fails, and Denmark charge forward, Pulsen finding Jorgensen inside him, accepting a return down the right and squaring a returned return. Jorgensen then moves the ball one more to Eriksen, and with no one anywhere near him, he has time to close his body and spank a right-footer in off the bar close to the near post. That’s superbly done!
63’ - GOAL! DENMARK ARE GOING TO RUSSIA! Ireland 1-3 Denmark (Eriksen). Denmark have played really well tonight and taken their chances really well. Sisto pulls into space between the lines, finds Eriksen doing likewise just outside the box, and one touch gets the ball out of his feet in order for a second to plant a sidefooted finish inside the post, halfway up. That's his second goal and his second tremendous finish!
74’ - WHAT A GOAL! WHAT A PLAYER! ERIKSEN HAS A HAT-TRICK! Ireland 1-4 Denmark (Eriksen). Christie makes a mess of a situation and allows Jorgensen a hopeful cross which picks out Ward in the middle of the box. For reasons uncertain, he can only prod it a few yards, so Eriksen fairly charges at it, absolutely dematerialising a drive straight and high past Randolph. What a player!
89’ - PENALTY DENMARK! Bendtner cuts inside and prepares to shoot with his right foot, McClean tries to stop him, catches him, and after waiting to see if Sisto scored, the ref blew for a spot-kick. Good officiating, that.
90’ - GOAL! Ireland 1-5 Denmark (Bendtner pen). The final insult. Obviously Bendtner takes the kick himself, confidently smacking it high and left as Randolph dives low and right.