Ireland 0 Holland 0: It was a game they could have lost heavily; at the finish, a match they might even have won.
Tom Mohan’s side were rewarded for their defensive tenacity in earning a big point from their opening game in Group D.
The Dutch wasted a host of chances while Ireland keeper Caoimhín Kelleher made two terrific saves. Despite all that, Ireland might have snatched victory, twice hitting the woodwork late on.
“It’s an important start for us, a big point,” said Mohan.
“Because that’s a good Dutch side. They’re producing quality players every year and they’re coming into the tournament on a high.”
With both sides playing a similar 4-3-3 system, a lively opening brought the game’s first real chance to Holland on seven minutes.
Nigel Roberta threaded a perfect ball through for the run of Mink Peeters. Conor Levingston tracked back diligently from midfield to execute a tremendous tackle on the Dutch striker inside the area before swiftly rising to his feet to clear the danger.
Ireland had another scare six minutes later. Dutch midfielder Carel Eiting latched onto a poor clearance to bring a first-rate save with his feet from Kelleher. Captain Conor Masterson headed wide from a Connor Ronan diagonal ball to register Ireland’s first chance on 28 minutes.
But Holland were creating far more openings and Kelleher was again in action to save low down from Javairo Dilrosun at the end of a flowing Dutch move three minutes later.
Two minutes on, Darragh Leahy somehow blocked away for a corner a close-range shot from Javairo Dilrosun, who seemed set to score, as again Ireland were carved apart at the back.
The Dutch got well on top again from the resumption with Ireland on the back foot, defending vigorously, as they struggled to get any possession.
Leahy was there once more to make another tremendous block tackle on Robertha when he looked to finally give the Dutch some joy having been played in by Dilrosun on 53 minutes.
Despite all Holland’s possession and chances, Kelleher wasn’t particularly busy. That changed on 58 minutes when the Cork ’keeper made his second superb save of the game, pushing Eiting’s shot onto a post with the ball scrambled clear.
Robertha was guilty of the miss of the match two minutes after that, contriving to blaze over the bar from the lively Rashaan Fernadnes’ cross.
Dilrosun was in again on 73 minutes, but once more the impressive Leahy was there to get in a crucial tackle.
Ireland finally began to create chances late on with Trevor Clarke shooting straight at Dutch keeper Justin Bijlow before then firing wide across goal. For all their dominance, the woodwork would then twice save the Dutch late on. First substitute Jamie Aharne saw his header tipped onto the crossbar by Justin Bijlow on 77 minutes. The ball cannoned down onto the goal line, but was adjudged not to have crossed it.
Two minutes later, Connor Ronan shaved the outside of a post from a free kick.
“I’ll say it was over the line! But I haven’t seen it yet, so I don’t know,” said Mohan of Aherne’s chance.
“We get ourselves recovered now and all thoughts are on Italy.”
Ireland meet the Italians in Star Zagora on Sunday.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND:
Kelleher (Ringmahon Rangers); Hanney (Shamrock Rovers), Masterson (Liverpool), Leahy (Coventry), Lunney (Preston); Agyei-Tabi (Arsenal), Levingston (Wolves); Ronan (Wolves); Elbouzedi (West Brom), Barrett (Reading), Clarke (St. Kevin‘s Boys). Subs: Scully (West Ham) for Levingston (55 mins.), Aherney (Lucan United) for Barrett (70 mins.).
Bijlow; Troupee, Fosu-Mensah, de Ligt, Van Drongelen; De Wit, Eiting; Peeters (Bijleveld, 60); Fernandez (Grot, 70), Roberta (Malen, 60), Dilrosun.
Dumitri Muntean (Moldova).
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