herald

Friday 24 November 2017

Night of calamity as Danes inflict a litany of pain

Passion not enough to stop Eriksen and book Irish ticket to Russia 2018

The Republic of Ireland’s Shane Duffy celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal during the World Cup qualifier play-off, second leg at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin last night. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
The Republic of Ireland’s Shane Duffy celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal during the World Cup qualifier play-off, second leg at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin last night. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

If you listened closely enough last night you'd have heard the sound of myths exploding.

With an opportunity for Ireland to book their ticket to Russia next summer, it looked as if passion alone might get them there.

If the psychic energy generated by the fans before we hit "Le gunna scréach faoi lámhach na bpiléar" in Amhrán na bhFiann could be distilled in a bottle it would register as a mind-blowing 100 percent proof.

But then this was the big one. The decider.

A campaign, that started on September 5 last year with a 2-2 draw against Serbia in Belgrade, had boiled down to this one last highly-concentrated burst of effort.

"We have to win," said Martin O'Neill beforehand. "I think we have to score a couple of goals."

Easier said than done, we thought.

Other than that opening Serbia match, Ireland had managed to score more than one goal just twice in this campaign. Both times against Moldova.

We scored two goals at home to Moldova last month, the team that finished bottom of Group D.

As we waited for the kick-off, the fainthearted among us worried that if Denmark scored, two Ireland goals might be beyond this squad.

As the match kicked off, sheets of drizzle wafted in from the Havelock Square end.

The conditions seemed treacherous as Denmark continued where they left off on Saturday night, lofting balls into the Ireland area. But, four minutes in, as Harry After forcefully robbed Pione Sisto the omens looked good. Sisto looked shaken.

Two minutes later, Robbie Brady stood over a free in the middle of ther pitch. His ball arrowed into the goalmouth where, under pressure, Nicolai Jorgensen lifted the ball high. Shane Duffy bustled forward and headed into the net.

Goal Ireland.

This was just what the doctor ordered but it came with a caveat.

Denmark would need to redouble their efforts to claw their way back and the smooth surface suited their silly skills more than us.

The often quoted words of Bette Davis echoed in the subconscious.

"Fasten your safety belts, its going to be a bumpy night."

And so it proved.

That was as good as it got for Ireland as, despite a few half chances, it was the Danes who made the most of their opportunities.

A short corner on 29 minutes saw Denmark skip past Arter. Andreas Christensen connected with the cross and, in a horrible choreography of misfortune, the ball knocked off the post, rebounded gently off Cyrus Christie and squeezed in slow motion into the net for an own goal.

Three minutes later Stephen Ward was dispossessed in his own half. With Ireland's defence stretched, a quick sweeping move by Denmark found Eriksen in space. Under no pressure, he sidefooted in off underside of the crossbar.

The arrival of Wes Hoolahan and Aiden McGeady for the second half underlined Ireland's dilemma.

But that man again, Christian Eriksen, picked his spot on 62 minutes and buried Denmark's third goal in the Ireland net.

The litany of pain continued when in another cruel cameo, Stephen Ward stopped the ball in his area. Unbalanced, he was unable to get it out before Eriksen arrived and unleashed a rocket to the roof of Randolph's net.

A hat-trick in the Aviva for the Spurs star.

At 4-1, Ireland fans began to stream towards the exits. By the end of the match, a half-empty stadium recalled friendly matches back in the days Lansdowne Road before Ireland qualified for Euro 88.

On a night of calamity, the much-vaunted Ireland supporters showed their true colours by walking out on the Boys in Green. Most of them weren't present when Nicklas Bendtner scored a penalty on 90 minutes.

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