Republic of Ireland 1
Dave Hooper In Aviva Stadium
The dream turned into a nightmare as Christian Eriksen killed Irish World Cup hopes in Dublin.
It had all started so well for Martin O’Neill’s men after Shane Duffy’s sixth minute goal, but Ireland were humbled in the Aviva Stadium, unable to match the Danish midfield.
Eriksen destroyed Ireland with a three goal savvy that Hans Christen Anderson would struggle to script as Denmark progressed to the 2018 World Cup.
Just six minutes where on the clock when Ireland took the lead as Shane Duffy rose to head home a lose clearance from Nicolai Jorgensen.
Robbie Brady’s free kick from half way was totally mishit by Jorgensen with Duffy rising ahead of the advancing Schmeichel to head home.
The goal didn’t dent Denmark’s confidence as Randolph produced his first save of the night four minutes later denying Jens Stryger Larsen’s effort from range.
Randolph produced another solid stop seven minutes later this time from William Kvist’s drive after Christian Eriksen had set up the effort.
While Ireland held Denmark at range, the Danes were always dangerous in front of a fragile Irish defence, Randolph gathering Sisto’s 18th minute effort.
Ireland then had chances to extend their lead, Daryl Murphy steering Cyrus Christie’s cross just wide of the post on 22 minutes.
James McClean came close two minutes later after Ireland’s best move of the first half involving Robbie Brady and Daryl Murphy, who set McClean free down the left.
McClean advanced on Schmeichel’s goal but shot just wide of the post.
The game swung into the Dane’s favour five minutes later, Pione Sisto tricked his way past Harry Arter into the box and pulled the ball across goal.
Christian Eriksen tapped the ball onto the post, with Cyrus Christie stiring the rebound goal ward and the ball trickling into the net to give Denmark a precious away goal.
It was very much the end of the World three minutes later as Ireland were caught on the counter attack with Stephen Ward caught on the half way line after a poor Robbie Brady pass.
Yussuf Poulsen sprinted down the right wing and squared it for Jorgensen who laid the ball off for Eriksen to rifle the ball off the underside of the bar and home.
Ireland were caught two on two with Eriksen rifling his shot past Randolph, off the cross bar and into the net.
The second goal stunned the Aviva Stadium crowd, whose early dreams of a trip to Russia next summer disappeared into the Dublin night.
Martin O’Neill shuffled his pack at the break, replacing central midfield pair David Meyler and Harry Arter with Aiden McGeady and Wes Hoolahan.
The changes were unable to swing the game in Ireland’s favour as Denmark continued to dominate with the football.
Shane Duffy’s 55th minute header from Robbie Brady’s corner was straight forward for Schemiechel but it was the best Ireland could muster.
Randolph was again called into action on 56 minutes, pushing away Eriksen’s shot under pressure from Ciaran Clark after a Danish counter.
Eriksen sent Denmark through to the 2018 World Cup with an exquisite shot into the corner of Randolph’s net on 63 minutes.
The Irish defence backed off as the Danes owned the ball, setting up Eriksen to pick his spot and finish off any hopes Martin O’Neill had of leading Ireland to their fourth World Cup.
Martin O’Neill made one last role of the dice, sending on Shane Long for Ciaran Clarke, but it made little difference.
Eriksen swooped for his hat-trick on 72 minutes, pouncing on a meek Stephen Ward clearance and denting the top corner of Darren Randolph’s net.
Denmark won a penalty in the 89th minute as James McClean caught Nicklas Bendtner with Bendtner rubbing salt into the Irish ruins from the spot to make it 5-1.
The dream turned into a nightmare and it will take Martin O’Neill a while to wake up.
Ireland: Randolph, Chistie, Duffy, Clark (S.Long), Ward, McClean, Meyler (Hoolahan HT), Arter (McGeady HT), Brady, Hendrick, Murphy
Subs Not Used: Westwood, Doyle, O’Shea, McShane, Whelan, O’Dowda, Hourihane, Hogan, K.Long
Denmark: Schmeichel, Kjaer, Bjelland, Stryger Larsen (Ankersen 54), Christensen, Kvist, Delaney, Eriksen, Sisto, Poulsen (Cornelius 70), Jorgensen (Bendtner 84)
Subs Not Used: Ronnow, Lossl, Jensen, Vestergaard, Jorgensen, Knudsen, Braithwaite, Lerager, Schone
Referee: Szymon Marciniak (Poland)