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Euro 2020 qualifiers: NI suffer agonising last-gasp defeat by Netherlands

Virgil van Dijk and Kyle Lafferty contend for possession during the first halfNorthern Ireland’s hopes of Euro 2020 qualification suffered a major blow as they went down to an agonising last-gasp 3-1 defeat by the Netherlands.Josh Magennis’s 75th-minute header gave NI the lead but Memphis Depay toe-poked home the equaliser five minutes later.Luuk De Jong’s…

Virgil van Dijk and Kyle Lafferty contend for possession during the first half

Virgil van Dijk and Kyle Lafferty contend for possession during the first half

Northern Ireland’s hopes of Euro 2020 qualification suffered a major blow as they went down to an agonising last-gasp 3-1 defeat by the Netherlands.

Josh Magennis’s 75th-minute header gave NI the lead but Memphis Depay toe-poked home the equaliser five minutes later.

Luuk De Jong’s hooked effort in the first minute of injury-time gave the hosts the lead and Depay slid the ball into the net for his second soon after.

The Dutch move top of the group, ahead of Germany and NI on goal difference.

European giants Netherlands and Germany both have a game in hand over Northern Ireland and are now in pole position to qualify from Group C.

NI remain in contention however with a home game against Ronald Koeman’s side and an away fixture against Germany to come in November.

Michael O’Neill’s team began their campaign with double victories over both Estonia and Belarus but a 2-0 home defeat by Germany last month, allied to this heartbreaking reverse in Rotterdam dealt a serious setback to their hopes of progressing.

NI frustrate the Dutch

Northern Ireland frustrated their illustrious opponents for all of the first half and much of the second with a determined rearguard action, keeping their shape, getting men behind the ball and closing down their men quickly.

A cagey first opening 45 minutes was played at a pedestrian pace, the home side enjoying most of the possession but unable to penetrate the disciplined and organised defensive wall set up by the visitors.

The beaten Nations League finalists posed little by way of attacking threat until Georginio Wijnaldum saw his well-struck drive blocked by the excellent Stuart Dallas.

The Netherlands’ inability to create clearcut chances kept the majority of the 51,000 crowd inside the Feyenoord Stadium quiet and it was the visiting 4,000-strong NI contingent who made more noise for the majority of the match.

The Dutch showed more urgency after the break, injecting more tempo into their play but still struggled to fashion scoring opportunities, Bailey Peacock-Farrell making a straightforward save from Donyell Malen and Jonny Evans clearing Wijnaldum’s effort off the line.

Super-sub Magennis on target again

Having scored late on as a substitute in the home win over Belarus in March and the away victory over Estonia in June, Magennis popped up with another goal after being introduced from the bench against the Dutch.

The Hull City forward out-jumped Matthijs de Ligt inside the area to head into the corner after Dallas had taken advantage of uncertainty in the Dutch defence to deliver an inch-perfect cross from the right.

With just 15 minutes remainingNI looked to be on the verge of one of the greatest results in their history and they could have taken another step towards a famous triumph soon after but Magennis was just unable to get a touch on another inviting Dallas delivery.

More to follow

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