Ir­ish dreams crum­ble in face of Dan­ish on­slaught

■ Boys in Green beaten 5-1 in World Cup play-off ■ Early lead wiped out by Eriksen hat-trick

Irish Examiner - - Front Page - Tony Leen Sports Edi­tor

James McClean cried the tears of a na­tion, crum­bling in front of the cam­eras just as his Repub­lic of Ire­land col­leagues had col­lapsed on a night of ab­ject mis­ery at the Aviva Sta­dium.

Ire­land’s World Cup dreams soared af­ter only six min­utes of the World Cup play-off sec­ond leg, but it was all down­hill there­after as Age Hareide’s Den­mark ruth­lessly ex­posed sloppy de­fend­ing to rout the boys in green 5-1.

Tot­ten­ham’s Chris­tian Eriksen claimed a hat-trick, with a shaken Repub­lic man­ager Martin O’Neill ad­mit­ting af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle: “We were well beaten.”

Eriksen’s three goals took his tally for the cam­paign to 11 goals, just two fewer than the Repub­lic man­aged in their 12 games.

James McClean had a chance to put Ire­land 2-0 in the first half but he was as stunned as any­one by Ire­land’s sub­se­quent col­lapse.

“They were just bet­ter than us... I don’t know what to say... I am just dev­as­tated,” said the West Brom winger.

Two avoid­able goals in three mad min­utes gave the Danes a 2-1 half-time lead be­fore Martin O’Neill, a man­ager not known for gam­bling, with­drew both his cen­tral mid­field­ers at half­time, ex­plain­ing after­wards: “There’s no point dy­ing won­der­ing. We had to get two goals back.

“The two [first half] goals we con­ceded were so, so sloppy,” the man­ager said. “The next goal is a com­edy of mis­takes. In a game of such im­por­tance, the whole mind­set changes when you are 2-1 down inside a cou­ple of min­utes when per­haps you might have been 2-0 up.”

How­ever, the ab­sence of skip­per David Meyler or Harry Arter was man­i­festly ev­i­dent as Eriksen picked up scraps on the edge of the Ir­ish area to score a third.

An­other de­fen­sive howler gifted him his hat-trick and Ire­land’s hu­mil­i­a­tion was com­plete in in­jury time when Nicklas Bendt­ner con­verted a penalty.

“Hu­mil­i­a­tion?,” frowned O’Neill after­wards, his RTÉ in­ter­view adding in­sult to in­jury. “We were well beaten.”

But some­how it felt much worse than a beat­ing.

Wed­nes­day Sport: 2-7

Pic­ture: James Crom­bie/INPHO

Shane Duffy con­soles James McClean af­ter the Repub­lic of Ire­land lost their 2018 World Cup qual­i­fy­ing play-off at the Aviva Sta­dium, Dublin.

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