Resolute Ireland produce exceptional defensive display to secure valuable draw away to European champions
The Netherlands 0 Ireland 0
Martin O’Neill’s side may have a barren year ahead but Ireland’s women have plenty to be excited about in 2018 after keeping their World Cup qualification hopes on track by holding Holland scoreless.
Despite the European champions having the lion’s share of possession and chances, Colin Bell’s Girls in Green withstood the pressure to stay unbeaten after three games of their tilt at reaching the 2019 showpiece France. They are joint-top with the Dutch at the summit of Group Three.
For Ireland to maintain their chances of reaching a first ever major tournament, their home form will be pivotal.
Up next is a home double-header in Tallaght against Slovakia and Dutch in April, providing a window to at least finish second and claim a play-off shot at reaching a first-ever major finals.
They even extracted the best result of their history with goalkeeper Marie Hourihan incurring up a muscle injury in the second half which forced her to kick with her weaker foot.
Those misdirected deliveries heaped more pressure on the Girls in Green but they managed to withstand the pressure to nick a precious point.
Conscious of the need to coral the Dutch attacking threat, Bell started with a new formation by dropping Niamh Fahey from midfield into defence across a back five.
The change proved successful as Vivianne Miedema, the 21-year-old chasing her 50th international goal, was denied the space she thrives on and spent most of the game with her back to goal.
On the rare occasion of a defensive lapse, when her Arsenal teammate Louise Quinn was failed to clear on the edge of her box, Ireland were saved by the post from the striker’s ferocious low effort.
The Dutch were forced to work hard for the rest of their chances, with Ajax defender Stefanie van der Gragt twice left frustrated by goal-line clearances by 16-year-old Tyler Toland from corner kicks.
Miedema missed a couple of half-chances to pinch the win, while Lieke Martens nodded over from a corner, but the jubilant scenes at the end were well deserved by the Irish heroines.
“Not many teams will get a result here, so credit to the players for sticking to the game-plan and shutting the Dutch out,” said Bell.
Bell can look forward to having a number of experienced players back from injury for when the campaign resumes. Aine O’Gorman and Stephanie Roche should return for the friendlies against Portugal in January, along with US-based Megan Connolly following the completion of her studies. Whether throw-in specialist Megan Campbell is fully recovered from her serious knee injury is unclear.
HOLLAND: S van Veenendaal; D van Lunteren (R Jansen 46), A Dekker, S van der Gragt, D Janssen; J Groenen, S Spitse, D van de Donk (Van Es 83); S van de Sanden (J Roord 59), V Miedema, L Martens.
IRELAND: M Hourihan (Manchester City); S Perry (Brighton & Hove Albion), L Quinn (Arsenal), D Caldwell (SC Sand), H Scott (Reading); N Fahey (Bordeaux), K Duggan (UCD Waves); T Toland (Maiden City), D O'Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), K McCabe (Glasgow City); A Barrett (Peamount Utd).
Sub: L Kiernan (Shelbourne) for Barrett (46 mins).
Referee: A Pustovoitova (RUS).