Eriksen’s ex­quis­ite hat-trick shat­ters Repub­lic of Ire­land World Cup dream

The Guardian - Sport - - World Cup Play-off Football -

1 5 And lo, the spirit and awk­ward­ness of Martin O’Neill’s Repub­lic of Ire­land were not enough. Those qual­i­ties took them to within touch­ing dis­tance of their first World Cup in 16 years but no fur­ther. Den­mark, far su­pe­rior in this play-off, will go in­stead. In Chris­tian Eriksen they have a player who be­longs among the elite, a point he ex­pressed beau­ti­fully in Dublin with an ex­quis­ite hat-trick.

Fleet­ingly Ire­land had Rus­sia within their reach, Shane Duffy head­ing them into a sixth-minute lead. But by half-time Den­mark had wrenched the World Cup ticket out of the home side’s hands and they never gave it back. They scored the away goal the Ir­ish had dreaded when Wil­liam Kvist’s ugly shot found the net via Cyrus Christie’s leg in the 29th minute. Then came Eriksen’s trio of beau­ties. It seemed like an un­nec­es­sary in­sult when Nicklas Bendt­ner scored from a late penalty.

It was an un­sea­son­ably cle­ment Novem­ber evening in Dublin but there was a giddy crackle in the air, with every­one in the 51,000-strong crowd, ex­cept for a cou­ple of thou­sand Danes, will­ing the home team to make his­tory. A gen­er­a­tion of Ir­ish chil­dren have no mem­ory of see­ing their coun­try in a World Cup and now here they were, tan­ta­lis­ingly close to be­com­ing peers of Brazil, Ar­gentina, Spain and all the rest at next sum­mer’s global show­piece. But boy, would O’Neill’s team have to fight for that priv­i­lege.

They had fought valiantly through 11 matches to get this far and the ex­pec­ta­tion was that the 12th would be the tough­est. Den­mark cer­tainly in­tended mak­ing it so. O’Neill’s team se­lec­tion sug­gested he recog­nised the threat the vis­i­tors car­ried and knew how much more dif­fi­cult an away goal would make Ire­land’s task. So he made only one al­ter­ation to the line-up that had shut out the Danes in Copen­hagen, with David Meyler re­plac­ing Cal­lum O’Dowda. If Ire­land were to at­tack more adroitly than they did on Satur­day, then that change would have to come from the same per­son­nel, with loud ver­bal cues from a ram­bunc­tious crowd.

It took six min­utes for that crowd’s wish to be granted. The goal owed noth­ing to new-found in­tri­cacy but no one cared about aes­thet­ics when Nicolai Jor­gensen’s at­tempt to clear a long free-kick by Rob­bie Brady re­sulted in the striker loop­ing the ball back­wards in his own box, invit­ing Duffy to soar high and nod the ball past the ad­vanc­ing Kasper Sch­me­ichel and into the net from eight yards.

Duffy had scored a sim­i­lar goal in Georgia in the group stages, af­ter which Ire­land had be­come so pas­sive they al­most en­cour­aged the op­po­nents to equalise, which Georgia even­tu­ally did. There would be se­ri­ous jeop­ardy in do­ing the same here. But soon, whether by Ire­land’s choice or the duress ap­plied by Den­mark, the hosts be­gan backpedal­ing. They were for­tu­nate in the 10th minute that Stryger Larsen failed to con­nect prop­erly with the ball af­ter Si­mon Kjaer caught the Ir­ish de­fence out with a long di­ag­o­nal pass. Then they were grate­ful to Dar­ren Ran­dolph for div­ing to his left and tip­ping away a drive from 20 yards by Wil­liam Kvist. Two min­utes later the goal­keeper came to the res­cue again, par­ry­ing a blast by Pione Sisto.

But in an in­creas­ingly fre­netic game it was not one-way traf­fic. Daryl Mur­phy al­most dou­bled Ire­land’s lead with a dainty flick at the near post from a cross by Christie, his shot miss­ing the tar­get by inches. Mo­ments later James McClean, re­leased by Brady, stormed down the left and into the box be­fore fir­ing a yard past the far post.

De­spite those raids, it was not look­ing like Ire­land would last 90 min­utes with­out con­ced­ing. As it turned out, they did not even last 29. There was both in­ge­nu­ity and cru­elty in the way they were in­fil­trated. Af­ter a short corner Sisto nut­megged Harry Arter and skit­tered into the box be­fore send­ing a low cross to Kvist. The mid­fielder scuffed his shot but it hit a post and re­bounded in off Christie.

Three min­utes later the vis­i­tors took the lead, Eriksen sweep­ing the ball re­gally into the net from 20 yards and via the un­der­side of the cross­bar fol­low­ing a move that be­gan when Stephen Ward was dis­pos­sessed on the left.

By half-time Ire­land knew that to res­ur­rect their World Cup dream they would have to score two goals in 45 min-

Repub­lic of Ire­land 4-2-3-1 Ran­dolph; Christie, Clark (Long, 71), Duffy, Ward; Meyler (Hoola­han, h-t), Arter (McGeady, h-t); Hen­drick, Brady, McClean; Mur­phy.

Subs not used

West­wood, O’Shea, Mc­Shane, Whe­lan, O’Dowda, Houri­hane, Doyle, Ho­gan.

Ref­eree S Marciniak (Pol)

Den­mark 4-4-2

Sch­me­ichel; Chris­tiansen, Kjaer, Be­jel­land, Stryger Larsen (Ankersen, 54); Kvist, De­laney, Eriksen; Sisto, Jor­gensen (Bendt­ner, 84), Poulsen (Cor­nelius, 70).

Subs not used

Ren­now, Lossl, Jensen, Knud­sen, Vester­gaard, Jor­gensen, Ler­ager, Braith­waite, Schone. utes and avoid con­ced­ing again. Mis­sion im­prob­a­ble.

Now O’Neill adopted a res­o­lutely at­tack­ing stance, in­tro­duc­ing Wes Hoola­han and Ai­den McGeady for Meyler and Arter at half-time. But Den­mark kept com­ing for­ward, Sisto forc­ing Ran­dolph into an­other save with a long-range shot. Ire­land did not trouble Sch­me­ichel un­til Duffy got on the end of a corner in the 55th minute. As Ire­land chased goals with aban­don, Den­mark sought to strike again on the counter. Ran­dolph was ren­dered help­less in the 63rd minute by the sheer bril­liance of Eriksen, who crowned a fine col­lec­tive move by curl­ing a shot into the bot­tom corner from 20 yards.

The Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur player helped him­self to a third goal by pun­ish­ing a mis­take by Ward and ram­ming the ball into the roof of the net 10 min­utes later and Bendt­ner scored from the spot af­ter a clumsy tan­gle with Duffy.

Eoin Noo­nan/Sports­file via Getty

Chris­tian Eriksen cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing his sec­ond and Den­mark’s third goal

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.