Republic of Ireland 1-5 Denmark: World Cup play-off second leg – as it happened

Denmark gave woeful Ireland a footballing lesson to win their place at Russia 2018

Ireland 1-5 Denmark (Agg: 1-5) match report

Paul Doyle was at the Avivia Stadium for the Guardian and this is how he saw tonight’s annihilation of the Irish unfold.

Should Martin O’Neill go? That was a clueless and naive a tactical performance I’ve ever seen from Ireland. They gave Denmark’s players far too much space in wide areas, but with the game still salvageable, Martin O’Neill made a couple of extraordinary substitutions at half-time. The introduction of Wes Hoolahan and Aiden McGeady afforded Denmark even more space, leaving Ireland with no holding midfielder against one of the best playmakers in world football. Irish left-back Stephen Ward ended up playing centre-half and gave away a goal , his second gift of the night to the Danes. It was a total mess.

Great Danes: Christian Eriksen was the stand-out player for Denmark, bagging himself the match ball with a sublime hat-trick comprised of two thunderbolts and one deft purler. His hat-trick was bookended by a Cyrus Christie own goal and Nicklas Bendtner penalty to complete a thoroughly miserable evening for Ireland, who opened the scoring through Shane Duffy after just six minutes. It seems a long time ago now.

A dejected James McClean at full-time.
A dejected James McClean at full-time. Photograph: Lee Smith/Action Images/Reuters


Full time: Ireland 1-5 Denmark (Agg: 1-5)

Peep! Peep! Peeeeep! It’s all over in Dublin, where Denmark have thrashed the Republic of Ireland to earn their place at Russia 2018. As the Danish players celebrate, Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane can only look on with their arms folded. Out on the pitch, their charges look devastated, but can have no complaints. They simply weren’t anywhere near good enough and didn’t deserve to advance from this tie after a performance of such risible quality. It’s difficult to believe they actually led this match at one point ...

90+2 min: We’re in the second of two minutes of added time and Ireland, who have been dire, have been thoroughly outclassed by a Denmark side who thoroughly deserve their place at the World Cup finals next summer.

GOAL! Ireland 1-5 Denmark (agg: 1-5) (Bendtner 90pen)

Ireland’s humiliation is now complete. Lord Nick smashes the ball past Darren Randolph to heap more misery on the Irish.

Nicklas Bendtner completes the rout.
Nicklas Bendtner completes the rout. Photograph: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile/Getty Images


Penalty for Denmark!

89 min: Nicklas Bendtner is tripped by James McClean in the Ireland penalty area. The referee plays advantage, only for Randolph to save well from Sisto. The referee then points to the spot.

88 min: With the ball at his feet on the left wing, Aiden McGeady tries to pick out Daryl Murphy at the near post. It’s cleared.

86 min: Wes Hoolahan tries to slalom his way into the Denmark penalty area, but meets a wall of resistance. The ball breaks to James McClean, but Denmark clear.

84 min: Denmark substitution: Nicklas Bendtner on for Nicolai Jorgensen. He may have scored a hat-trick, but Christian Eriksen is no longer the classiest player on the pitch.

80 min: Denmark win a corner, with Ireland’s players looking completely dead on their feet and wishing they were anywhere but out on that pitch getting hammered. They’re chasing shadows at the moment and it’s a little difficult to see where the four goals they require in the next 10 minutes are going to come from. Shane Long had a good chance to pull one back shortly after coming on, but fired high over the bar after being put through on goal. He can’t buy a goal at the moment and his confidence is clearly at rock bottom.


79 min: Corrections and clarifications dept: It was Yussuf Poulsen who made way for Andreas Cornelius earlier, not Pione Sisto, as I erroneously recorded for posterity. That’s fixed now.

75 min: Not long on the field, Andreas Cornelius sent a cross into the box, which Stephen Ward miscontrolled. The ball broke into space in the penalty area and Eriksen was quickest to react, sprinting to rifle it send it screaming past Randolph as Ward scrambled to recover. Now is probably not the time to point Big Fingers of Blame, but Ward has had a game to forget tonight, in a largely dreadful collective Irish performance.

GOAL! Ireland 1-4 Denmark (agg: 1-4) (Eriksen 74)

Eriksen secures his hat-trick with a truly venomous finish, pouncing to hammer the ball into the top right-hand corner after more dithering in the Irish defence. That is a fine, fine hat-trick.

Christian Eriksen fires in his hat-trick after a mistake by Stephen Ward.
Christian Eriksen fires in his hat-trick after a mistake by Stephen Ward. Photograph: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile/Getty Images
Eriksen celebrates his hat-trick.
Eriksen celebrates his hat-trick. Photograph: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile/Getty Images


71 min: Ireland substitution: Shane Long on for Ciaran Clark. Jeff Hendrick drops back into the heart of the Ireland defence as Martin O’Neill sends on a player who hasn’t scored in his past 30 appearances for club and country to try and bag a hat-trick in the next 20 minutes. These are desperate times for Ireland, who need three goals. Wes Hoolahan and Robbie Brady are now in the heart of Ireland’s midfield.

70 min: Denmark substitution: Yussuf Poulsen off, Andreas Cornelius on.


68 min: On Sky Sports, Ray Houghton bemoans Ireland’s policy of trying to get the ball forward too quickly, plus the utter futility of playing aimless long and high balls in the direction of Wes Hoolahan. He’s about 5ft 4in in his socks, so he’s not going to win any of them.

66 min: Leaning backwards to get on the end of a cross from Stephen Ward, James McClean heads high over the Denmark cross-bar.

65 min: That was another splendid finish from Eriksen, who latched on to a pass from Sisto 20 yards from goal and placed the ball beyond Randolph’s dive with laser-like precision. Ireland can have no complaints about tonight’s inevitable defeat - they’ve been outplayed by a vastly superior team tonight. The defending there was atrocious.

Eriksen celebrates after scoring the third.
Eriksen celebrates after scoring the third. Photograph: Peter Morrison/AP


GOAL! Ireland 1-3 Denmark (agg: 1-3) (Eriksen 63)

Well dat’s dat, den, as we say in Ireland. With acres of space and all the time in the world at their disposal, Denmark advance on Ireland’s goal in a move that ends with Christian Eriksen curling the ball beyond Darren Randolph from the edge of the Ireland penalty area.

Christian Eriksen has too much space and curls the ball beyond Randolph.
Christian Eriksen has too much space and curls the ball beyond Randolph. Photograph: Seb Daly/Sportsfile/Getty Images


61 min: Robbie Brady takes the free-kick, but his delivery bounces in the Danish penalty area and sails straight into the clutches of Kasper Schmeichel.

60 min: The clock ticks past the hour mark with Ireland needing to score two goals without reply to qualify for the World Cup. They win a free-kick wide on the right, about 40 yards from goal for a foul on Cyrus Christie.

59 min: There’s a break in play as Yussuf Poulsen receives medical attention after a clash of heads with Stephen Ward.

57 min: A poor ball in to the Denmark penalty area from Aiden McGeady sends Denmark galloping up the field on the counter-attack. Christian Eriksen finds himself through on goal, but is unable to beat Darren Randolph, who saves his shot. The ball doesn’t break particularly kindly for Thomas Delaney, who fails to score on the follow-up.

A let-off for Ireland there, as Eriksen didn’t have the necessary speed to get in quite the position he would have liked to beat Randolph.

55 min: Just before that corner, Denmark made their first substitution: Jens Stryer Larsen makes way for Peter Ankersen.

54 min: Wes Hoolahan tries to run on to a Daryl Murphy flick-on and wins a corner for his team. Robbie Brady sends the ball into the penalty area, where Shane Duffy’s firm downward header poses Kasper Schmeichel few problems.

53 min: Randolph pushes the ball behind for a corner after Christian Eriksen plays the ball into the path of Sisto, who gets it on his right foot and unleashes a shot.

52 min: Denmark are dominating possession, while trying to slow the game down. They dawdle over free-kicks and throw-ins, prompting plenty of fruity language from assorted Ireland players being picked up by the pitch-side microphones.

51 min: Denmark attack with Jens Stryer Larsen on the ball down the left flank. He plays it inside to Sisto, but Randolph comes to the rescue for Ireland.

49 min: Kasper Schmeichel boots it long for Denmark and minor chaos ensues. The ball breaks for Christian Eriksen, who floats it into the penalty area from the right. Stephen Ward makes a vital interception with Nicolai Jorgensen lurking. A corner for Denmark, from which nothing comes.

48 min: Denmark win a free-kick for a Duffy foul on Pione Sisto.

47 min: Ireland win a corner, which Robbie Brady swings into the mixer. Yussuf Poulsen heads clear for Denmark.

Second half: Rep of Ireland 1-2 Denmark (Agg: 1-2)

46 min: With Ireland fans everywhere shouting “Alexa/Siri, make Ireland score two goals without reply!” the second half begins. Ireland have made two substitutions, with Wes Hoolahan and Aiden McGeady on for David Meyler and Harry Arter.

Martin O’Neill makes the changes.
Martin O’Neill makes the changes. Photograph: Lee Smith/Action Images/Reuters


Half-time: Ireland 1-2 Denmark (Agg: 1-2)

The referee brings the curtain down on a first half that could scarcely have started better for Ireland, but went quickly downhill. They opened the scoring through Shane Duffy, but conceded two in three minutes as a Cyrus Christie own goal and a fine strike from Christian Eriksen gave Denamrk the advantage. The Danes are in the box seat now, with Ireland needing at least two goals to advance.


44 min: A poor defensive header from Andreas Bjelland allows Ireland to turn the screw, but a good opportunity goes begging when Ward fouls Andreas Christensen on the left side of the Danish penalty area and the referee blows for a foul.

42 min: Ireland attack, with Harry Arter eschewing a shooting opportunity only to pick out Robbie Brady on the left instead. A poor delivery from the Burnley man results in a Denmark goal kick.

40 min: Replays of Denmark’s second goal will make for bleak viewing for Ireland left-back Stephen Ward. Near the halfway line with the ball at his feet, he attempted to take on and beat Pione Sisto, failed to do so and within seconds Darren Randolph was picking the ball out of the Irish net.

38 min: Ireland lump the ball long and Daryl Murphy gets the flick on. James McClean attempts to pounce in the Denmark penalty area, but the ball carries through to Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

36 min: Going back to Denmark’s first goal ... Sisto teed up Christensen, who should have buried the ball but could only poke it feebly on to the post. It rebounded from the foot of the post and hit Cyrus Christie before trundling almost apologetically over the line.

33 min: That was a fine strike from Eriksen to round off a Danish move that began when Stephen Ward gifted possession to Yussuf Poulsen on the the halfway line. A three-man Danish ended with the ball being played to the feet of an unmarked Eriksen on the edge of the area and he rifled it into the top left-hand corner. A real moment of quality from the best player on the pitch.

GOAL! Ireland 1-2 Denmark (Eriksen 32)

32 min: Christian Eriksen fires home off the underside of the crossbar from the edge of the Irish penalty area to round off a blistering Danish counter-attack in fine style. Ireland need at leaast two more goals to have any chance of qualifying for Russia 2018.

Christian Eriksen fires home off the underside of the bar.
Christian Eriksen fires home off the underside of the bar. Photograph: Lee Smith/Action Images/Reuters


31 min: It was far from pretty but they all count. Denmark had a corner, which Christian Eriksen took short, catching Ireland’s defence napping. The ball was eventually played into the penalty area, where Pione Sisto did well to tee up Christiansen with a deft back-heel. Oh, hold on ...

Andreas Christensen celebrates after Christie’s own goal.
Andreas Christensen celebrates after Christie’s own goal. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images


GOAL! Ireland 1-1 Denmark (Christie 29og)

29 min: Denmark equalise from a corner and have the advantage. Andreas Christensen pokes the ball goalwards, it hits the post and then bobbles over the line off Cyrus Christie.

Cyrus Christie is unable to clear the ball off the line.
Cyrus Christie is unable to clear the ball off the line. Photograph: Lee Smith/Action Images/Reuters


27 min: This has been a fascinating match so far, with referee Szymon Marciniak helping to add to the gaiety of the game by allowing it to flow and playing advantage as often as possible. It may well be down to the fact that he’s a former player, but his common sense approach has made for a very entertaining game so far.

25 min: Pione Sisto attempts to dink the ball into the Ireland penalty area for Christensen to run on to, but his pass is over-hit and goes straight into the waiting arms of Darren Randolph.

23 min: James McClean runs between two defenders on to a through ball from Robbie Brady and closes in on the Denmark goal. From a tight angle, he aims for the far post and watches in agony as the ball rolls just the wrong side of it. Replays suggest he might have been offside, but the linesman kept his flag down.

22 min: Cyrus Christie takes advantage of another advantage played by the referee, gallops down the right flank and curls a cross towards Daryl Murphy running towards the near post. His deft volley finds the side-netting, with many of the crowd celebrating a goal because they thought he’d beaten Kasper Schmeichel. Close, but no cigar.

20 min: Ireland get the ball out of their own half for the first time in what seems like aeons, with Daryl Murphy and James McClean combining to try and hold the ball up. They eventually win a throw-in, followed quickly by another deep in Denmark territory. Keep it down there, lads! Keep it in the corner for the next 69 minutes!

18 min: Randolph comes to Ireland’s rescue again, saving at the near post from a Pione Sisto pile-driver on the volley. Good refereeing there from Szymon Marciniak, who allowed Denamrk to play the advantage when he could have brought play back for a free-kick there. Denmark are putting Ireland under all sorts of intense pressure here.

Pione Sisto’s volley is saved.
Pione Sisto’s volley is saved. Photograph: Lee Smith/Action Images/Reuters


16 min: Andreas Christensen finds himself in acres of space on the right side of the Ireland penalty area and tees up William Kvist for a shot. Darren Randolph dives low and to his right to palm his low daisy-cutter out for a corner. A good shot is kept out by good goalkeeping.

Darren Randolph saves smartly from Kvist.
Darren Randolph saves smartly from Kvist. Photograph: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile/Getty Images


15 min: Denmark win a throw-in deep in Ireland territory and William Kvist takes it quickly, catapulting the ball into the Ireland penalty area. The home side clear their lines.

14 min: Denmark attack down the left flank and Meyler and McClean clatter into each other in their attempts to clear it from the box.

13 min: Christie plays the ball forward to James McClean, who is unable to prevent it going out for a throw-in.

10 min: Simon Kjaer picks out Jens Stryger Larsen with one of his wonderful cross-field diagonal balls and the left-back gives a ball-watching Cyrus Christie the slip. After sneaking in behind Christie, Larsen fails to make contact with the ball and it sails wide. Larsen goes to ground nursing what looks like an injured shoulder. That was a wonderful pass from Kjaer, identical to one that caught out Ireland in the early stages of the first leg. Denmark didn’t score then either.

9 min: Natural pessimism dictates that this Irishman can’t help but feel that Ireland have scored far too soon, but what it does mean for definite is that we can’t have extra time or penalties. Obviously, an equaliser away from home for Denmark would swing the advantage back in their favour.

7 min: A fantastic start for the home side. Robbie Brady punted the ball forward from the free-kick, Nicolai Jorgensen fluffs his defensive header and Shane Duffy heads into an empty net from the edge of the six-yard box with Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel off his line and stranded in no-man’s land. Poor goalkeeping and a poor touch from Jorgensen contributed to that goal.

Duffy and James McClean celebrate.
Duffy and James McClean celebrate. Photograph: Lee Smith/Action Images/Reuters


GOAL! Ireland 1-0 Denmark (Duffy 6)

Ireland take the lead courtesy of a looping Shane Duffy header.

Shane Duffy beats Schmeichel to the ball to score.
Shane Duffy beats Schmeichel to the ball to score. Photograph: Seb Daly/Sportsfile/Getty Images


5 min: “It’s somewhat unbalanced the Irish midfield, at the oment,” says Sky co-comms man Ray Houghton, who thinks Robbie Brady is playing too centrally. Ireland win a free-kick just inside their own half.

3 min: Perhaps surprisingly, Denmark appear to have lined up with a back four, with Chelsea Andreas Christenen playing in the right-back position and Jens Stryger Larsen on the left.

1 min: Play is under way with the 30th available place in next summer’s World Cup finals up for grabs. Robbie Brady gives away an early free-kick with a foul on Christian Eriksen, wide on the right.

The ball’s swung towards the near post, where a wayward defensive header by David Meyler loops into the arms of Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph.

James McClean sings Amhrán na bhFiann.
James McClean sings Amhrán na bhFiann. Photograph: Sportsfile/Getty Images


And then the Irish anthem: Next up it’s the Irish anthem, Amhran Na bhFiann, followed by the pre-match handshakes, coin-toss and huddles on a wet and windy night in Dublin. Kick-off is just moments away.


Correction: Michael D is introduced to the players before the national anthems, before the sizeable contingent of Danish fans in the Avivia Stadium wrap their chops around a rousing rendition of Der Er Et Yndigt Land.


Not long now ...

The teams line up in the tunnel and are lead out by captains David Meyler and Simon Kjaer. They line up on either side of the team of match officials led by Szymon Marciniak and prepare to be introduced to Irish president Michael D Higgins once the national anthems have been played.

Martin O'Neill speaks ...

In an interview with Sky Sports, the Ireland manager has this to say about his players: “I think they’re right, of course ... you always think they’re right but only time will tell. I think they’re mentally and physically prepared for the game. The crowd will play a big part tonight, so we need to make good use of that.”

On whether or not he’s prepared them to play for 120 minutes: “It only takes a second to score a goal and that changes the whole dynamic of the game. We have to win and finish on top.”

Any last-minute words for the team? “I think the players are ready for the game.”

Martin O'Neill
Martin O’Neill and his players rocking up to the Aviva Stadium earlier. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images


Denmark players warming up. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

And this from Paul Hobson

“J K Rowling’s description of the Dementors in Harry Potter reminded me of what the Republic of Ireland did to Denmark in the first match,” he says. “’Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself. Dementors feed on human happiness and thus generate feelings of depression and despair in any person in close proximity to them’. Was this Martin O’Neil’s inspirational speech before the last match?”

An email from Justin Kavanagh

“Watching the first leg was like watching Kierkegaard trying to best Conor McGregor in a philosophical debate,” he says. “All the intelligent football was in red but it bounced off a brick wall of brute force (and some fine goalkeeping from Randolph). Hopefully tonight Robbie Brady might channel his inner Liam and somehow cut through the Danish defence and score one of them, you know, goal things that we used to do.”

Weird conversations you walk in on ...

I’ve just been away from the desk and returned to hear the tail end of a David Meyler interview on Sky Sports. “... a collage of photographs on the bathroom wall, there’s one of me in an Ireland 94 top, a nappy and a pair of my mother’s high-heeled shoes.” And then they cut to an ad break. Here’s hoping he’s not wearing a nappy or his mum’s high-heeled shoes tonight, as they might impair his movement.


One change for Denmark

RB Leipzig striker Yussuf Poulsen replaces Andreas Cornelius in the Danish side, otherwise it’s as you were from the first leg in Copenhagen.

Actually, Lars Bøgegaard has been in touch to point out there are in fact two changes for Denmark. “Andreas Christensen replaces Peter Ankersen,” he says. “Looks like a 3-5-2 as Ankersen is a classical fullback.”

Yussuf Poulsen and Robbie Brady
Yussuf Poulsen replaced Andreas Cornelius during the second half of the first leg and starts for Denmark today. Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images


Roman Neustadter (left) and Szymon Marciniak
Szymon Marciniak, seen here giving Russia’s Roman Neustadter short shrift, will be in charge of maintaining order tonight. Photograph: Artyom Korotayev/TASS

Republic of Ireland v Denmark line-ups

Rep of Ireland: Randolph, Christie, Duffy, Clark, Ward, Hendrick, Arter, Meyler, Brady, McClean, Murphy.

Subs: Westwood, O’Shea, McShane, Whelan, McGeady, Shane Long, O’Dowda, Hoolahan, Hourihane, Hogan, Kevin Long, Doyle.

Denmark: Schmeichel, Kjaer, Christensen, Bjelland, Poulsen, Delaney, Kvist, Larsen, Nicolai Jorgensen, Eriksen, Sisto.

Subs: Lossl, Jensen, Vestergaard, Ankersen, Bendtner, Mathias Zanka Jorgensen, Knudsen, Braithwaite, Lerager, Schone, Cornelius, Ronnow.

Referee: Szymon Marciniak (Poland)

Republic of Ireland starting XI

Darren Randolph, Cyrus Christie, Ciaran Clark, Shane Duffy, Stephen Ward; David Meyler, Harry Arter; Jeff Hendrick, Robbie Brady, James McClean; Daryl Murphy.

As expected, David Meyler comes into the team as the only change from the eleven who lined up in Copenhagen. Callum O’Dowda makes way for the Hull City midfielder.

David Meyler
David Meyler (foreground) is back from suspension and will start in Ireland’s midfield tonight. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Aviva Stadium
The Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Dublin's Aviva Stadium
The pitch gets a judicious watering ahead of tonight’s match. Photograph: Lee Smith/Action Images via Reuters

Early team news ...

Midfielder David Meyler will almost certainly return for Ireland after serving a one-match ban in the first leg. Bristol City’s Callum O’Dowda will probably make way. Seamus Coleman remains a long-term absentee, but is back in training after recovering from a broken leg. Denmark have no new injury concerns or suspensions following the first leg in Copenhagen.

Will Irish eyes be smiling?

Good evening and welcome to our minute-by-minute coverage of tonight’s World Cup eliminator between the Republic of Ireland and Denmark at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Like any World Cup play-off worth its salt, the first leg ended scoreless, which means it’s all to play for this evening.

If the first leg was anything to go by, it’s unlikely to be a game for the purists, but tension will most assuredly be high. Ireland need to win, while the away goals rule means a score draw will see Denmark through to Russia 2018. In the event of another goal-free stalemate, the tie will be decided by penalties. Kick-off is at 7.45pm (GMT), but stay tuned for team news and build-up.