The Netherlands 2
Ben Blake reports from Tallaght Stadium
TWO FIRST-HALF goals were enough to do the damage as Ireland lost their first qualifier of the current World Cup campaign tonight.
The bid to become the first senior female side from this country to reach a major tournament took a hit as the Girls in Green went down 2-0 to the current European champions.
Lineth Beerensteyn opened the scoring early on, and Sherida Spitse added from the penalty spot midway through the half, after it had been awarded for a foul outside the box.
Level on points with one of the superpowers in women’s football and still unbeaten after their opening four qualifiers going into the game, there has been much-welcomed interest in the team of late.
A record crowd of 3,521 showed up to Tallaght Stadium for the 2-1 victory on Friday, and that was bettered this evening — with 4,047 turning out — despite the poor weather and the fact that it clashed with a big night of Champions League football.
That encouraging support, along with a new level of professionalism manager Colin Bell has brought since his appointment, suggests the set-up has come a long way since this time last year — when the squad were forced to strike in an effort to improve conditions.
Bell opted to hand a senior debut to 17-year-old Amy Boyle Carr on the right side of midfield. The Donegal native got the nod ahead of Ruesha Littlejohn as the only switch in personnel to the side that left it late to see off Slovakia at the same venue last week.
The Dutch, meanwhile, made two changes after hammering Northern Ireland 7-0 in front of 30,000 fans four days ago, as Renate Jansen came in for Liza Van der Most, while Beerensteyn replaced Vivienne Miedema.
Ireland set up with the aim to contain their opponents for as long as possible and create the odd chance on the counter-attack — just as they did during the 0-0 draw in November.
However, the game was just 11 minutes old when they found themselves behind. Captain Katie McCabe was guilty of trying to run the ball out of her own box and lost possession to Jansen.
She exchanged a one-two with Shanice van de Sanden and crossed for Bayern Munich forward Beerensteyn to head home.
Kiernan looked to ease the heavy pressure on Ireland’s defence by bursting into the opposing half when she got the ball, but the Shelbourne striker cut an isolated figure and Sarine Wiegman’s side double their advantage in controversial circumstances on 22 minutes.
Diane Caldwell had a tug of Danielle van de Donk’s shirt and picked up a yellow card as French referee Stephanie Frappart pointed to the spot. That call was a bad one though, as the contact was made outside the box.
Nevertheless, midfielder Spitse stepped up to drill past Marie Hourihan in the Ireland goal.
Spitse then came close to doubling her personal tally with a 30-yard drive that struck the upright and came back into play. Van de Sanden thought she had made it three before half-time, but her header from another Jansen cross was ruled offside.
Bell withdrew Boyle Carr at the interval to introduce Amber Barrett, whose confidence was sky high after scoring her first international goal in the Slovakia win. And the Peamount United forward began to cause some problems with her direct running at the opposing defence.
The Netherlands continued to threaten and Dominique Janssen saw her curling free-kick touched onto the crossbar by Hourihan four minutes after the restart.
Ireland were getting into much better areas at this point and they found some joy down the right side but, once again, it was the team in orange who went close as Beerensteyn was kept out by the feet of Hourihan.
She had to save from Van De Donk too, but Ireland stood strong to keep a clean sheet in the second half.
Next up for Bell’s team is a crucial double-header with Norway in June.
IRELAND: Marie Hourihan; Sophie Perry, Louise Quinn, Diane Caldwell, Karen Duggan; Amy Boyle Carr (Amber Barrett 46), Megan Connolly (Ruesha Littlejohn 73), Niamh Fahey, Katie McCabe; Denise O’Sullivan; Leanne Kiernan.
THE NETHERLANDS: Sari van Veenendaal; Renate Jansen, Stephanie van der Gragt, Dominique Janssen, Siri Worm; Jackie Groenen, Sherida Spitse, Danielle van de Donk; Shanice van de Sanden (Jill Roord 69), Lineth Beerensteyn, Lieke Martens.
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