Northern Ireland hold Dutch to Belfast draw


It will be the playoff route for Northern Ireland if they want to qualify for next summers Euro 2020 tournament after they held the Netherlands to a 0-0 draw at a rocking Windsor Park on Saturday evening.

Northern Ireland had the opening chance when Corry Evans put pressure on Jasper Cillessen before the goalkeepers clearance bounced off the Blackburn Rovers man before the Dutch could eventually clear their lines.

In what well could be be Michael O’Neill’s final home game in charge of his country it was all Northern Irish pressure in the opening minutes as Josh Magennis met a cross before he glanced it just wide of the post on 6 minutes.

Ronald Koeman’s side then nearly had the ball in the net when Ryan Babel’s low cross picked out Ajax frontman Quincy Promes before his effort hit the crossbar from close range beating keeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell all ends up.

Promes was looking threatening and fired up for the contest and it was he who had the next opening when Babel latched onto a long ball from Daley Blind but he could only fire straight at Peacock-Farrell from six yards out.

In what was an end to end battle it was Northern Ireland who made the next move when Gavin Whyte whipped a teasing ball in from the right aiming for George Saville but he couldn’t quite make a connection and Matthijs de Ligt swept away the danger.

Northern Ireland were gifted a golden chance to take the lead when Joel Veltman handled a cross from Whyte as referee Szymon Marciniak pointed to the penalty spot, Steven Davis who with his start became the Uk’s most capped midfielder took full responsibility but blazed his effort from 12 yards over the crossbar.

O’Neill’s troops were playing some fantastic football and on 41 minutes broke away through Davis before he threaded a pass into Whyte he then proceeded to cross low into the box but Veltman was on hand to clear before the onrushing Magennis could connect.

On the stroke of the break it was the Netherlands who had the final talking point of the half as Promes poked into the net but his effort was chalked off following a foul on Peacock-Farrell by Steven Berghuis from a corner.

Koeman’s side started the second half brightly the former Southampton and Everton manager’s side coming close when Donny Van de Beek skipped into the area before his pull-back was well dealt with by Jonny Evans.

Peacock-Farrell then had to be alert to keep the tie level on 57 minutes when Babel met a Veltman header across goal but his own header was then dealt with well down low by the Burnley and Northern Ireland stopper.

Netherlands were boxing Northern Ireland inside their own half, the side dressed in all orange containing pressure on the home side as Davy Propper screwed his effort across the box aiming for Luuk de Jong who had broken Northern Irish hearts late in Rotterdam last month but Davis was there to lash the loose ball away.

Windsor Park was then silenced for a matter of seconds when the Dutch broke away with Babel combined with the dangerous Promes before his low cross was sent wide of his own goal by Craig Cathcart when it looked for a split second it was heading into his own net.

Northern Ireland then thought they were in on goal on 77 minutes when Niall McGinn broke into the box but he was adjudged to have fouled Propper when it looked like the Dutch player had slipped in the process.

On 86 minutes Cillessen then was kept on his toes after Whyte chipped a ball into the box aiming for the head of Magennis but he was beaten to it by the Netherlands keeper when he was lurking to pounce.

It was to finish 0-0 as the Netherlands qualified for next summers tournament alongside Germany who won 4-0 over Belarus leaving Northern Ireland to the playoffs however it was a fantastic performance and a game of maybes following the penalty miss.


Northern Ireland

Cillessen,Veltman,de Ligt,Babel,Berghuis,Promes,de Roon,Blind,Van de Beek,de Jong.


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