So no repeat of last year’s heroics in Holland from Ireland in Tallaght last night, but no shame either, as the Netherlands showed why they are the European champions with a classy and comfortable 2-0 victory.
In front of a record attendance for a women’s international in Dublin of 4,047, the girls in green were never lacking in guts and application but the gulf in class was evident throughout as only some brave and disciplined defending, a couple of fine saves and the intervention of the woodwork restricted the visitors to two goals.
But with the Irish still in second place in the World Cup qualifying campaign, Amber Barrett’s late winner against Slovakia at this venue last Friday retains its significance ahead of what are now critical back-to-back meetings with the group’s other big guns, Norway, in June.
Manager Colin Bell said he was disappointed with the manner in which his team had conceded the two goals.
“We made two blunders although for the second, I didn’t think it was a penalty.
“It was a foul, yes, but outside the box. But both were unfortunate errors and you get punished for those at this level. Of course, I’m very pleased and proud of the girls’ effort. We made a scrap of the game and a fight of it in the second half. And it was important not to concede any more goals. We need to stay in this tournament.
“We can’t be conceding five or six which is possible against these kind of teams. That was good, we kept it tight in the second half. We had one or two chances ourselves. We learned a lot from today. We need to be able to compete against these teams and we can but we have to improve.”
There were two surprises in the starting line-ups, with Bell handing 17-year-old Donegal woman Amy Boyle Carr her debut in place of Ruesha Littlejohn while, for the Dutch, top striker Vivianne Miedema was deemed not fit enough to start, Bayern Munich’s Lineth Beerensteyn taking her place.
The game began as it was destined to continue, the Dutch virtually owning the ball as the green shirts were pegged back in defence. Five minutes elapsed before the home side even got to cross the half-way line but, after Katie McCabe was brought down outside the Dutch box, Megan Connolly’s free came back off the orange wall.
Unfortunately, it was McCabe’s lapse closer to her own area which opened the door to the visitors after only 11 minutes, the skipper’s loss of possession allowing overlapping full-back Renate Jansen the time and space to pick out Beerensteyn with a perfect cross, and Miedema’s impressive replacement headed firmly past Marie Hourihan in the Irish goal.
North Carolina-based Cork star O’Sullivan did her best to get the Irish on the front foot from midfield but Leanne Kiernan was largely starved of service up front as the one-way traffic continued.
The relentless pressure saw the Dutch double their advantage in the 22nd minute, though there was an element of injustice about it from an Irish point of view as the referee took the debatable view that Danielle van de Donk was just inside the box when pulled back by Diane Caldwell. Sherida Spitse stepped up to coolly send Hourihan the wrong way from the resultant penalty.
Colin Bell was animated on the touchline, trying to get his players to push up, but the siege continued and Ireland, despite some stout defending, were almost three behind just past the half-hour mark when Spitse drilled a low 25-yarder which beat the diving Hourihan but came back into play off the inside of her far post.
Five minutes before the break, Jansen, who was revelling in the freedom of the right flank, put in another teasing ball but this time the flag was up for offside as Shanice van de Sanden’s header found the back of the Irish net.
At the other end, meanwhile, Dutch captain and keeper San van Veenendaal had hardly had to dirty her gloves on a cold and damp night before the sides went in at the break with the visitors in total command of the game.
After a difficult debut 45 minutes for Boyle Carr, Colin Bell withdrew the youngster and sent on Amber Barrett in an attempt to give Kiernan some forward support for the second half.
But it was the Dutch who almost extended their lead shortly after the restart, Hourihan touching Dominique Janssen’s bending free-kick onto the crossbar and over for a corner as the visitors quickly resumed their search for a third goal.
The determined Barrett was certainly giving the physically imposing Dutch defenders more to think about as the Irish began to get forward a little but, as the clock ticked past the hour mark, the home side had still to register their first serious attempt on the opposition goal.
But, defensively, the Irish continued to show tremendous discipline and spirit in holding back the relentless Orange tide and even when the defence was breached in the 74th minute, Hourihan did brilliantly to deny van de Donk from close range.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND:
Hourihan, Perry-Campbell, Quinn, Fahey, Caldwell, Duggan, Connolly (Littlejohn 72), Boyle Carr (Barrett 45), McCabe, O’Sullivan, Kiernan
Van Veenendaal, Worm, Dekker, vander Gragt, Janssen, Groenen, Spitse, van de Donk, van de Sanden (Roord 68), Beerenstyn, Martens.
Stephanie Frappart (France)
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