Belfast Telegraph

Devastation for Martin O'Neill as Eriksen hat-trick destroys Republic World Cup dream


By Adrian Rutherford

Martin O'Neill spoke of his devastation after the Republic's World Cup dreams were destroyed by Denmark.

Christian Eriksen scored a stunning hat-trick in a 5-1 masterclass by the Danes in Dublin last night.

Afterwards, Republic boss O'Neill blasted his side's defending, after they had taken an early lead, saying it had wrecked their hopes.

"We conceded two real sloppy goals within a period of a couple of minutes and it was a long way back after that," he said. "The goals are so sloppy - you see them back again and they are so, so bad."

Last month it emerged the FAI had offered O'Neill a new contract to take him through the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

Asked if he still intended to sign the deal, O'Neill replied: "I haven't spoken to John (Delaney, the FAI chief executive) since we talked about it, and I'll speak to John, I'm sure there was an agreement, but I'll speak to John in the next couple of weeks."

After holding Denmark to a 0-0 draw in the first leg in Copenhagen on Saturday night, Irish fans arrived at the Aviva stadium in confident mood.

And they were celebrating when Shane Duffy headed the Republic into a fifth minute lead.

James McClean went close to making it 2-0, but it proved a false dawn as Denmark - and Eriksen - seized control.

Once Cyrus Christie's own-goal just before the half-hour had levelled the match, Eriksen stamped his class all over it.

He put the Danes in front three minutes later, rounding off a wonderfully-worked team move.

Eriksen's stylish second - Denmark's third - in the 64th minute all but killed off the tie.

And the Tottenham midfielder completed his hat-trick, crashing home the Danes' fourth of the night with 17 minutes remaining.

A stoppage time Nicklas Bendtner penalty completed a catastrophic night for the Republic.

Ulsterman O'Neill said: "We got off to a great start and perhaps James - the second goal - might have made a big, big difference.

"But we conceded those two really sloppy goals - the second one is just a comedy of errors.

"The whole mindset then changes and you're 2-1 down within a period of a couple of minutes when six or seven minutes earlier you might have been 2-0 up."

O'Neill admitted they had blown a great opportunity.

He added: "I'm naturally disappointed because, a couple of nights ago in Copenhagen, we fought very strongly. Tonight was our opportunity. We thought we could win the game and the start that we got was great, but we definitely needed the second goal."

Asked if it was a humiliation, he replied: "I would say we were well beaten."

O'Neill's fellow Derryman McClean was at a loss to explain the hammering.

"We shot ourselves in the foot - we'd a great start, and then… I don't know what to say," he said.

Hat-trick hero Eriksen said: "It's an incredible feeling. We've been fighting for so long to get to the World Cup. We are very much looking forward to it. It's not often I score any hat-trick so of course it is incredible.

"I know how nervous I was all day and night. We got the ball, we played better than the first game. The second goal was the most technical one, better than the others," said the 25-year-old.

"Mentally I have grown up. I take the more clinical shot rather than passing. I am thinking more like a striker."

Veteran Denmark manager Age Hareide added: "It was very good, especially when we came from behind. We didn't get stressed. We tried to play and got the goals.

"I am very pleased with the team and the performance. This is a difficult place to play football - scoring five goals against the Republic of Ireland does not happen. I was surprised. They played with a diamond and that gave us lots of space and I just say thank you very much.

"Eriksen is a fantastic player. An inspiration for those around him. He is a world class player."

Belfast Telegraph

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