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Drama as European champions Netherlands claim last-gasp victory

New Zealand were agonisingly close to earning a draw.

Netherland's Vivianne Miedema (left) and New Zealand's Rosie White (centre) battle for the ball.
Netherland's Vivianne Miedema (left) and New Zealand's Rosie White (centre) battle for the ball.
Image: Richard Sellers

REIGNING EUROPEAN CHAMPIONS Netherlands were made to sweat in their opening World Cup encounter against New Zealand today, before eventually winning 1-0.

The Dutch — who emerged from a group that included Ireland in the qualifiers — were left frustrated for large portions of the contest, before Jill Roord, a recent Arsenal signing, headed home a late winner to break their opponents’ hearts.

The result leaves Netherlands joint-top of Group E with Canada, who defeated Cameroon 1-0 in their opening fixture last night.

“I am happy with the performance throughout the game,” New Zealand boss Tom Sermanni told the BBC afterwards. “We were courageous, battled hard and were unbelievably disciplined. We gave everything we could give and tactically spot on. It is a bit heartbreaking but that is football.

“We have to take the great things we did and do it against Canada. We came up against one of the best team in the world and went shoulder to shoulder with them.

“They (the Netherlands) were very concerned, you could tells things were not going their way. They knew they were in for a battle but would have felt confident coming in to the tournament.”

The stars of a lively match were the two goalkeepers, Sari van Veenendaal for the Netherlands and New Zealand’s Erin Nayler. Both were busy and both, at different stages, underwent on-field treatment after brave saves.

The Dutch had almost 70% of possession and almost three times as many goal attempts but New Zealand went painfully close three times.

In the first half, Olivia Chance hit the bar and Rosie White drew a sprawling save from Van Veenendaal with a long-range strike.

Early in the second half Sarah Gregorius, who is of Dutch descent, shinned a volley into the ground that gave Van Veenendaal time to lunge to her right and claw the ball round the post.

At the other end, centre-backs Rebekah Stott and Abby Erceg coped well with the physical presence of Dutch forward Vivianne Miedema and the lively skills of the attackers around her.

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When the Dutch did carve a clear chance, they were frustrated either by Nayler or some anxious finishing, until the final moments.

“We found it tough to create openings,” said Fifa’s player of the match Lieke Martens. “New Zealand defended well and it was not our best match, that’s clear.”

The Dutch swung one more hanging cross to the far post where Lineth Beerensteyn bulleyed Ali Riley into a tame header back across the goal and Arsenal’s Roord guided the ball past the advancing Nayler.

Additional reporting by AFP

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Paul Fennessy

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