Ireland U-21 3 Netherlands U-21 0
Noel King’s Ireland U-21 side have got their 2013 off to a very good start with a surprisingly comfortable win over a much-vaunted Netherlands side at Tallaght Stadium this afternoon.
While both sides had something of an experimental look, a brace from Aiden O’Brien and a second-half penalty from Anthony Forde gave Ireland a resounding win over a Dutch side who are in the middle of preparations for the European Championships later this year.
For King, this was a chance to try some new players ahead of the qualification campaign for the 2015 Euros, which kicks-off with a trip to the Faroe Islands in August. Their group also contains Germany, Romania and Montenegro.
Millwall’s O’Brien, who is originally from London, had a near-perfect debut with two first-half goals, though he limped off early in the second half with a knee injury.
The Dutch, who were missing some of their more well-known faces, started strongly and Derrick Williams almost gifted the Netherlands an early goal when his firm header back to Aaron McCarey almost caught the keeper out, while Alex Schalk struck the post with an effort from just outside the area.
Yet Noel King’s side survived the early pressure without conceding and went ahead 10 minutes in.
The ball was worked nicely down the right flank and Forde, a constant thorn in the side of the Dutch defence, struck a cross towards the back-post, where O’Brien arrived to sweep home into the bottom corner.
O’Brien was afforded a great opportunity to double the gap with 22 minutes on the clock after the high Dutch line was caught napping, but, with only the goalkeeper to beat, he missed the target from the edge of the area.
The Dutch remained very dangerous however and Hakim Ziyech struck the upright on 24 with a venomous effort from a tight angle, the ball rebounding back off McCarey and out for a corner.
While he would have expected to do better with his one-on-one attempt, O’Brien made no mistake in the 37th minute with a close range finish after Forde’s free-kick was flicked on by captain Shane Duffy to double Ireland’s advantage.
A raft of subs on both sides killed the tempo of the game at the break, but similar to the first, it was the visitors who threatened early on, as Stanley Elbers struck over with 50 minutes played.
But Ireland sealed the win on 57 minutes when Anthony Forde was fouled inside the area and referee Mervyn Smith pointed toward the spot.
Forde stepped up to strike it home himself, placing the ball into the bottom left corner and out of the reach of Hobie Verhulst.
The loudest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for the introduction of St Pat’s midfielder Chris Forrester in between the awarding and conversion of the penalty, and the Smithfield youngster went close with a glancing header following a neat cross from Forde three minutes after being introduced.
At that point the game died a death however, with The Netherlands enjoying a larger share of possession with the Irish happy to play on the counter.
Next up for Ireland is a friendly at the end of March against Portugal at Turner’s Cross, while The Netherlands’ focus returns to preparing for the Euros.
Ireland U-21: Aaron McCarey (Sean McDermott ht); Matt Doherty (Joe Shaughnessy ht), Derrick Williams (Anthony O’Connor ht), Shane Duffy, Sean McGinty (Carl McHugh ht); Samir Carruthers (Frankie Sutherland ht) , Kane Ferdinand (John O’Sullivan 35), Callum Reilly (Cian Bolger 64), Sean Murray; Aiden O’Brien (Chris Forrester ht), Anthony Forde.
Netherlands U-21: Stefan van der Lei (Hobie Verhulst ht); Mike te Wierik, Ted van de Pavert (Stefano Denswil ht), Nick Bakker (Peter van Ooijen ht), Timo Letschert (Joel Veltman ht); Luciano Slagveer (Jodu Lukoki ht), Jesper Drost, Kevin Jansen, Stanley Elbers; Alex Schalk, Hakim Ziyech.
Referee: Mervyn Smith (IFA).