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Thursday 10 Oct 2019
Northern Ireland suffer heartbreak against the Dutch

Northern Ireland slipped to a gut-wrenching 3-1 defeat to the Netherlands in this crucial European Championship qualifier in Rotterdam.

After falling behind to a 76th minute Josh Magennis header, three late Dutch goals secured the points for Ronald Koeman's side.

Michael O'Neill caused a surprise before kick-off by naming Kyle Lafferty in the starting line-up whilst recalling Shane Ferguson and Michael Smith at the back.

Scoreless at the break, Northern Ireland executed O'Neill's game plan perfectly during the opening 45 minutes, frustrating their hosts at every opportunity and restricting them to what amounted to a series of half chances.

Indeed, the took the Netherlands until the 26th minute to craft their first effort on goal when Georginio Wijnaldum saw a left-footed effort blocked while, moments from the break, the same player flicked a header goalbound from Daley Blind's cross by Bailey Peacock-Farrell proved equal to the challenge.

Wijnaldum had another chance early in the second half but, again, was unsuccessful with a shot over the top after Ryan Babel had laid the ball off.

The Dutch showed signs of stepping up a gear as Babel teed Steven Bergwijn up at the back post but George Saville thwarted him with a timely clearance followed swiftly by a chance for Babel but he, fortunately, couldn't control the ball.

Peacock-Farrell then made a crucial stop on 68 minutes when Memphis Depay played the ball through to substitute Donyell Malen but the Northern Ireland keeper did well to gather his half volley.

Jonny Evans then came to the rescue on 72 minutes with a hooked goalline clearance from Wijnaldum's touch at the back post.

Then, remarkably, with a quarter-of-an-hour remaining the home crowd were silenced when a bout of poor Dutch defending allowed Stuart Dallas to cross into the box for Josh Magennis to rise above defender Matthijs de Ligt to nod Northern Ireland into the lead.

The 3500-strong travelling support were sent into raptures. Did we dare dream of another famous victory?

Unfortunately it wasn't to be. Stung by going behind, the Dutch levelled within five minutes through Olympique Lyonnais man Depay with a stabbed finish past Peacock-Farrell from Malen's cross.

And Northern Ireland hearts were broken in the second minute of stoppage time when Frenkie de Jong volleyed home unmarked at the back post. Then, moments after that, Depay rubbed salt into Northern Ireland's wounds with a composed right-foot finish.

For long, long periods it promised to be a night to remember for Northern Ireland but, ultimately, it was an ending we'll want to forget.

Netherlands: Cillessen; Dumfries, De Ligt, Van Dijk, Blind; De Roon, Wijnaldum, F. de Jong; Bergwijn, Depay, Babel subs Bizot (not used), Vermeer (not used), Veltman (not used), de Vrij (not used), Ake (not used), van Aanholt (not used), van de Beek (replaced de Roon 66), Strootman (not used), Berghuis (not used), Promes (not used), L. de Jong (replaced Dumfries 78), Malen (replaced Babel 66)

Northern Ireland: Peacock-Farrell, Ferguson, J. Evans, Cathcart, Smith, Davis, C. Evans, Saville, McNair, Dallas, Lafferty subs Carson (not used), McGovern (not used), McLaughlin (not used), Flanagan (replaced C. Evans 87), Donnelly (not used), Thompson (replaced Saville 83), Kennedy (not used), Whyte (not used), McGinn (not used), Boyce (not used), Magennis (replaced Lafferty 67), Lavery (not used)