Den­mark books for Rus­sia af­ter rout­ing Ire­land

Times Colonist - - Sports -

DUBLIN — Chris­tian Eriksen scored a su­perb hat trick as Den­mark qual­i­fied for next year’s World Cup with an em­phatic 5-1 vic­tory over Ire­land in their play­off on Tues­day.

With last week’s first leg hav­ing fin­ished 0-0, Ire­land made an ideal start to the re­turn match by tak­ing the lead in the sixth minute through de­fender Shane Duffy.

But Den­mark’s play­ers grad­u­ally took con­trol in mid­field and were re­warded when An­dreas Chris­tensen’s ef­fort went into the net off Ire­land’s Cyrus Christie in the 29th minute.

Eriksen then stole the show, putting the vis­i­tors ahead in the 32nd minute, and scor­ing two more af­ter the break.

Nicklas Bendt­ner turned a de­served vic­tory into a rout when he con­verted a penalty in the 90th minute.

Next year’s tour­na­ment in Rus­sia will be Den­mark’s fifth World Cup ap­pear­ance and first since 2010.

Den­mark coach Age Hareide paid trib­ute to Eriksen, who has been on fine form this sea­son for Tot­ten­ham in the Pre­mier League and the Cham­pi­ons League.

Asked Eriksen’s world rank­ing as a player, Hareide said: “Ab­so­lutely in the top 10. It is dif­fi­cult to rank, but we saw him against Real Madrid. He is prob­a­bly one of the best play­ers in his po­si­tion in Europe at the mo­ment.”

A rau­cous home crowd in Dublin had been treated to the per­fect start when Rob­bie Brady’s free kick from just be­yond the halfway line was flicked on by Den­mark’s Nicolai Jor­gensen. The ball rose into the path of cen­tre back Duffy, who headed home.

Den­mark mid­fielder Thomas De­laney had said af­ter the first leg that breach­ing the Ire­land de­fence was like “open­ing a can of baked beans with your bare hands — it takes time.”

This time, their per­se­ver­ance even­tu­ally paid off in the 29th minute.

Pione Sisto went past Harry Arter af­ter a short corner and pulled the ball back for Chris­tensen, whose touch just man­aged to send the ball over the line, de­spite Christie’s ef­forts to di­vert it.

Three min­utes later, Yussef Poulsen showed good tenac­ity to steal pos­ses­sion off Stephen Ward, be­fore ex­chang­ing passes with Jor­gensen. The ball was worked to the left, where Eriksen struck a first-time shot into the net via the cross­bar — giv­ing Ire­land keeper Dar­ren Ran­dolph no chance.

Ire­land man­ager Martin O’Neill made two changes at the break as his team tried to chase the game. It made for an open con­test, but it played into Den­mark’s hands.

The con­test was over in the 63rd minute when Sisto picked out Eriksen. The Tot­ten­ham for­ward was given too much time on the edge of the area and fired the ball home - with Ciaran Clark and Duffy un­able to reach him.

It was a match to for­get for Ward, who failed to con­trol a cross and al­lowed Eriksen to race onto the loose ball and ri­fle it into the top corner in the 74th minute.

The hat trick brought Eriksen’s to­tal in this World Cup qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign to 11.

A bad night for Ire­land was com­pounded when James McClean gave away a penalty for a foul on Bendt­ner, with the for­mer Arse­nal striker scor­ing from the spot.

“We were well beaten,” O’Neill said. “We fought tooth and nail to try and get into this po­si­tion. I have to com­mend the play­ers for get­ting this far.”

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