EURO 2024 Qualifier Report: Netherlands 1 - 0 Republic of Ireland
Macdara Ferris reports from the Johan Cruijff Arena
The Dutch did enough to get the win they required to book themselves a place at EURO 2024 next door in Germany next summer.
Wout Weghorst’s early first half goal was the difference between the sides on the giant scorebards hanging off the closed roof in the Johan Cruijff Arena.
However, in reality, there was a large gulf between the sides with the home team just too wasteful with all the chances that came their way to give them comfort late on while Ireland failed to really threaten them.
Mention this week as this being Stephen Kenny’s ‘Last Dance’ doesn’t really tally with the truth.
While Michael Jordan was arrowing in on his sixth NBA Championship ring with the Chicago Bulls in that award winning documentary, in what is expected to be Stephen Kenny’s final game in charge, the Ireland boss was hoping to move off the figure of just six wins in competitive games, with his team already eliminated from European Championship qualification.
On the eve of the game in Amsterdam, Kenny spoke about the challenge for Ireland teams down the years in gaining a big victory away from home.
His side were facing up against the seventh best side in the world, in a country where Ireland haven’t won a competitive match previously and that wasn’t to change on this occasion.
Landmark away wins away in Wales and Austria were earned during Martin O’Neill’s tenure – for Kenny his only competitive victories away from Lansdowne Road will be those matches against Azerbaijan, Luxembourg and, most recently, Gibraltar. And that means the exit door it seems for him soon enough.
You feared for Ireland when they went 1-0 down after just a dozen minutes of the match. The Boys in Green – and Gavin Bazunu – have a reputation for conceding goals from distance but Weghorst was willing to take the ball on and on, running right towards Bazunu’s goal before blasting the ball by the Ireland keeper from close range.
Ireland were looking for a foul in the build-up to the goal as the Dutch striker had a fist full of Nathan Collins sweat stained Castore shirt as he turned the Irish defender to run onto Stefan de Vrij’s through ball.
Bazunu on a couple of occasions in the first half was called upon to slide out at the feet of Dutch attackers to smother the ball – he did this to both Cody Gakpo and Tijani Reijnders.
Ronald Koeman’s front three caused Ireland all sorts of difficulty. RB Leipzig’s Xavi Simons was outstanding throughout the game and along with Gakpo the duo either side of Weghorst were happy to take the ball and then take on the retreating Ireland defence.
The home side were wasteful with a number of shots from distance with Gakpo not finding the target from three different efforts in the opening half.
Ireland had very little to show going forward. There was a super run from deep from Ireland captain Matt Doherty while Ryan Manning was given the chance to swing a number of crosses into the opposition box.
Bart Verbruggen was called upon only really to come and collect a cross or two as Ireland didn’t test him with any shots.
Stephen Kenny’s side too many times were loose with their passes and that allowed the Dutch to apply pressure and pile forward but they couldn’t find a second before the half time whistle was blown by Italian referee Marco Di Bello.
Kenny withdrew the ineffectual Robinson at the break bringing on Adam Idah who did offer more in the second half. Within three minutes of the restart the Dutch almost doubled their lead and Ireland were thankful for a great block by Cody Gakpo of all people who saved Ireland.
Simons started the move from deep with his shot on target with Bazunu beaten only for the ball to clip the back to clip Gakpo.
Soon after Bazunu pulled off a brilliant double save.
He did really well to push out Weghorst’s close range effort and moments later he got enough of a touch on Reijnders shot from outside the box to push it onto the post and out.
Ferguson was withdrawn on 55 minutes after being well shackled by Dutch skipper Virgil van Dijk.
Idah did have the ball in the net just before the hour mark after he ran from half way through but the offside flag went up to spare Verbruggen's blushes as the keeper allowed the ball get by him through his legs.
The Dutch certainly didn’t sit back on their 1-0 lead and kept looking to get forward to score a second – the home supporters kept themselves entertained with numerous Mexican waves and when the final blew they almost raised the closed roof in celebrations.
They are Germany bound for EURO 2024 as Ireland look to go back to the drawing board at managerial level.
The Dutch celebrated with a DJ booth rolled out onto the centre of the pitch at full time but the music is over it seems for Stephen Kenny.
Netherlands: Bart Verbruggen; Stefan de Vrij, Virgil van Dijk ©, Daley Blind; Denzel Dumfries, Tijani Reijnders (Teun Koopmeiners 90), Jerdy Schouten (Marten de Roon 90), Quilindschy Hartman; Xavier Simons (Donyell Malen 80), Wout Weghorst, Cody Gakpo (Joey Veerman 69).
Subs not used: Justin Bijlow, Mark Flekken, Jorrel Hato, Jordan Teze, Mats Wieffer, Thijs Dallinga, Calvin Stengs.
Republic of Ireland: Gavin Bazunu; Nathan Collins, Dara O'Shea (Troy Parrott 90), Liam Scales; Matt Doherty © (Michael Johnston 77), Alan Browne, Josh Cullen, Jason Knight (Jayson Molumby 77), Ryan Manning; Evan Ferguson (Jamie McGrath 55), Callum Robinson (Adam Idah 46).
Subs not used: Caoimhín Kelleher, Mark Travers, Shane Duffy, Andrew Omobamidele, Andrew Moran, James McClean, Mark Sykes.
Referee: Marco Di Bello (Italy)
Attendance: 51,000 (estimate)
extratime.com Player of the Match: Xavi Simons (Netherlands)