Denmark through to World Cup after crushing Ireland

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    Denmark’s Christian Eriksen scored a hat-trick in a 5-1 thrashing of the Republic of Ireland in their playoff second leg to secure the final European berth at next year’s World Cup.

    Denmark trailed to an early Shane Duffy header but took control immediately and struck twice in three minutes, first when Andreas Christensen’s stabbed effort on the half hour mark hit the post and went in off Ireland’s Cyrus Christie.

    That was followed by a superbly swept home second from Eriksen, who then made sure of victory with a left-footed effort on 64 minutes and completed his hat-trick after poor defending 10 minutes later.

    Nicklas Bendtner added a late penalty for the Danes, who reached their fifth World Cup having been frustrated by a well-organised Irish display in a scrappy goalless first leg.

    “It’s not often I score any hat-trick, so of course it’s incredible and taking your country to the World Cup with three goals away and winning the play-off, it’s going to mean a lot for my whole career, for my whole life really,” Eriksen told Sky Sports Main Event.

    “It’s a crazy feeling right now, we’ve been fighting together for so long.”

    It had all looked so different for Ireland when Duffy took advantage of some poor defending to put the hosts ahead.

    Nicolai Jorgensen sliced an innocuous long free kick towards his own goal and into the path of the Brighton and Hove Albion defender who beat Kasper Schmeichel to the ball and sent the packed Aviva Stadium wild.

    Denmark refused to panic, however, sewing fears among the home fans that they scored too early as Ireland keeper and first leg man-of-the-match Darren Randolph saved well from William Kvist and Pione Sisto after his defence was carved open.

    Ireland boss Martin O’Neill predicted his side would need to score two goals to end their 16-year World Cup appearance drought and that briefly looked like being the case when Sisto’s nutmeg of Harry Arter from a short corner led to Denmark’s leveller.

    Stephen Ward then carelessly lost the ball on the halfway line and it made its way to Eriksen whose edge-of-the-box strike went in off the crossbar.

    The hosts never looked like threatening and fell apart as they were easily picked off on the break with Eriksen curling in the pick of the bunch from outside the box and then hammering home his 11th of the qualification stages.

    “We were well beaten in the end, no question about that… The goals were so sloppy,” O’Neill told Irish national broadcaster RTE.

    © Reuters 2017