Dutch dent Ireland’s World Cup hopes with comfortable win
European champions scored two first half goals to put the game to bed in Tallaght
Ireland’s Louise Quinn dejected after conceding they first goal of the game to the Netherlands in their 2019 World Cup qualifier. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Republic of Ireland 0 Netherlands 2
After the upsurge in talk of qualification for what would be the Irish women’s first ever World Cup, Colin Bell’s side got a something of a reality check courtesy of a Netherlands team who looked comfortable throughout as they beat their hosts a little more comprehensively than the scoreline might suggest.
The team, Bell has always made clear, is a work in progress and there were positives here from a local perspective that he will doubtless look to take into the double header against the group’s actual top seeds, Norway, in June. Once they had done this time what they had failed to in Nijmegen and scored in the 12th minute, the Dutch always looked to be firmly in the driving seat.
Ireland, as they had when the two sides first met, found it difficult to play their way out of defence and the opener was an early lesson in the dangers of trying it with Katie McCabe robbed of possession as she tried to go past Renate Jansen whose cross was headed home well by Lineth Beerensteyn.
The penalty that gave them their second midway through the opening would have been soft had the contact between Diane Caldwell and Danielle van de Donk that led to it actually been inside the box but as it was something of a gift to the visitors from the French officials. After Sherida Spitse sent Marie Hourihan the wrong way the net effect was to leave Ireland chasing a game against the European Champions who came here fresh from putting seven past Northern Ireland.
Ireland, to be fair, did try to steadily ramp up the attacking side of their game but for the bulk of the 90 minutes Leanne Kiernan was obliged to carry a very big load. She did it remarkably well at times, to be fair, but Stefanie van der Gragt and Dominique Janssen, of Ajax and Arsenal respectively, had little else to distract them for the most part and while Hourihan made a couple of memorable stops in the second half, their goalkeeper did not have a single save to make.
“Of course, I’m really pleased with the girls’ effort,” said Bell afterwards. “In the second half we were really into the game, we made a scrap of it, a fight of it but we couldn’t get ourselves back into it with a goal, which we needed of course. So we learned a lot from today but obviously we have certain boundaries, they were quite openly there today and we have to improve on them.”
Ireland had sought to set up much as they had in the away game with five in defence but their hopes of frustrating the Dutch were completely undermined by a goal Bell clearly felt should never have been conceded.
“Put the ball in the stand and nothing happens,” he said, “but the cross comes in, she lost her marker. I wouldn’t say anything but we have possession and give the ball away in that area... it’s got to be in the stand, no two ways about it.
“That’s football, those are the decisive moments. You make a blunder there, trying to take someone on on the edge of your own box; you’re going to get punished.”
The second half was brighter from an Irish perspective although the game was essentially lost by then he acknowledged. “You’re 2-0 down so maybe all that expectation on the girls is gone but yeah, they did very well.
“We said at half-time if we can’t score a goal then we lose 2-0 because we need to stay in this tournament. We can’t be conceding five or six which is possible against these kinds of teams. That was good, we kept it tight in the second half and we had one or two chances ourselves.”
Denise O’Sullivan, one of a number of Irish players to produce strong individual performances night insisted that the team is still in contention for their original target, to beat one of their main seeds out of second place.
“There’s three games to go,” she said, “and we’re still very much in the race for finishing in the top two. We know what we’re up against in Norway (who moved to within a point of Ireland with a 3-0 win in Portadown), another top team in the world, but we’ll be well prepared.
Bell agreed, insisting: “It was always going to come down to these games against Norway as the group has developed. Norway also have to play Holland again in the last game – when we play Northern Ireland. That’s why Slovakia was so important. We can take a lot out of this evening too, but unfortunately no points.”
Republic of Ireland: Hourihan; Perry-Campbell, Caldwell, Quinn, Fahey, Duggan; Connolly O’Sullivan, Boyle-Carr, McCabe; Kiernan. Sub: Barrett for Boyle-Carr (half-time), Littlejohn for Connolly (73 mins).
Netherlands: van Veendendaal; Jansen, van der Gragt, Janssen, Worm; Groenen, Spitse; van de Sanden, Beerensteyn, Martens; van de Donk. Subs: Roord for van de Sanden (69 mins).
Referee: S Frappart (France).