Great Danes! Eriksen hat-trick secures World Cup spot

Christian Eriksen scored a hat-trick to dispatch Ireland and send his country to the World Cup. AFP

Great Danes! Eriksen hat-trick secures World Cup spot

Jack Ottman by Jack Ottman @jackottman - 0 2,071

Denmark thrashed Ireland 5-1 in Dublin, with a hat-trick from star man Christian Eriksen, to book the final European place at the World Cup in Russia next summer.

Ireland got off to the perfect start at the Aviva Stadium, but things soon went downhill and Eriksen was the difference between the two sides as the Danes raced clear.

The rain was pouring down but the Ireland fans were in fine voice from the off, and they were rewarded with an early goal.

Nicolai Joergensen miscued his clearance after a Robbie Brady free-kick from deep, sending the ball up rather than away, and Shane Duffy got to the ball before Kasper Schmeichel and nodded in to give Ireland the lead.

If the Green Army weren’t bouncing before, they certainly were after the early goal and Denmark were shaken.

Darren Randolph was called into action for the first time just after 15 minutes into the game, and he made an excellent save down to his right to keep out a low drive from William Kvist.

Ireland went close to doubling their lead, and a few supporters in the stadium thought they had done, when Daryl Murphy flicked the ball into the side netting after Cyrus Christie curled an excellent cross in from the right.

However, on the half hour mark, Christie was ruing his luck when he got the last touch on Denmark’s equaliser. Pione Sisto showed some excellent skill to break into the area after a short corner before cutting back towards Andreas Christensen and the Chelsea defender poked the ball goalwards and it struck the post before squirming into the goal off Christie.

There was a hint of fortune about the equaliser, but the second followed two minutes later and it was a goal from the top draw. Joergensen found Christian Eriksen on the edge of the area after Stephen Ward lost the ball on the halfway line, and the Tottenham midfielder fired in off the crossbar from the edge of the area, leaving Randolph with no chance.

The two quickfire goals knocked the stuffing out of Ireland, who knew they now needed two goals to book their place in Russia, and they failed to create any more clear-cut chances in the first period.

Martin O’Neill decided to make an attacking change at the break, knowing what was at stake, with Wes Hoolahan and Aidan McGeady replacing David Meyler and Harry Arter.

Despite the changes, Ireland struggling to threaten the Denmark goal and although they were committing a lot of men forward, they always looked susceptible to a counter-attack, and Randolph did well to keep an effort from Eriksen out after a swift break.

Not perturbed by that missed chance, Denmark’s talisman soon put the game out of Ireland’s reach after 63 minutes. A nicely worked move ended with Sisto finding Eriksen on the edge of the area, and he had time to take a touch before curling a left-footed effort past Randolph into the bottom corner.

The home side now needed three goals and brought Shane Long on in place of Ciaran Clark in the hope of getting back into the game, but once again Eriksen had other ideas.

With 15 minutes remaining, Ward failed to control a cross in from Andreas Cornelius and the ball rolled straight into the path of Eriksen, who thrashed the ball into the roof of the net from 12 yards to secure his hat-trick.

Martin O’Neill’s side refused to give up and Shane Long raced onto a long ball but his chip over Schmeichel was just over the bar.

It was a case of counting down the minutes in the final stages, but Nicklas Bendtner had the chance to put the icing on the cake for the visitors when he was brought down by James McClean inside the area.

The former Arsenal striker converted from the spot to make it 5-1 and round off a memorable night for the Danes.

Denmark will be heading to Russia to compete in their first World Cup since 2010 and they fully deserved the comprehensive victory.

Meanwhile, Ireland will be disappointed with the way they responded after such a good start to the game, but could do little to stop a world-class Christian Eriksen who was in fine form tonight.

Jack Ottman

Jack Ottman

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