The Netherlands confirmed their qualification for Euro 2024 with a 1-0 victory over a toothless Republic of Ireland thanks to Wout Weghorst’s goal.
Visiting striker Evan Ferguson, so impressive for Brighton this term, was starved of possession all night before departing injured.
The contest was settled early by Weghorst’s 11th-minute goal, as he span Nathan Collins before hitting a thunderbolt past Gavin Bazunu, though individual brilliance was lacking from both sides for much of the rest of the evening.
Ireland were already eliminated from Euros qualification, this defeat the latest in a sorry campaign where they’ve only scored more points against Gibraltar in Group B.
They did have the ball over the line at one point, when Adam Idah broke forward and his shot squirmed past Bart Verbruggen, but that was called back for a clear offside to save the goalkeeper’s blushes.
Otherwise, the visitors looked completely out of ideas despite plenty of possession, as Ferguson constantly probed the Dutch backline but was never fed the ball before his departure. In front of a sizeable travelling crowd, the Irish were outshot 19-3 by their hosts.
Weghorst also forced Bazunu’s best save, doing very well to turn a first-time shot back against the grain and on target, but apart from that and his goal, the Netherlands only managed three more real chances.
Talking point: Dutch victorious but not impressive
The hosts taking an early lead was the worst possible outcome for the contest, with Ireland unable to fashion a goalscoring opportunity and the Netherlands happy to let them try and then hit on the break.
Ronald Koeman’s decision to remove Cody Gakpo for a defensive midfielder with 20 minutes to go earned boos from the Johan Cruyff Arena, the boss electing to protect a narrow lead that his side should’ve fattened earlier.
The Netherlands haven’t made an impact on a major tournament since the 2014 World Cup, and that’s not likely to change on the basis of this performance.
Gakpo, Xavi Simons and Denzel Dumfries combined well at times, but all three players wasted chances to score as their team’s qualification hopes were always at risk while the score remained 1-0.
Against a side that has shipped 10 goals in qualifiers, it should’ve been a chance for the Dutch attackers to feast but that didn’t materialise.
The Netherlands won’t get 19 chances in many games at the Euros, so they’ll hope to have sharpened their shooting boots by then.
One bright spark was Tijjani Reijnders though, the AC Milan midfielder driving forwards on dangerous runs that caught Ireland out on several occasions.
Player of the match: Wout Weghorst
Not all players of the match are created equal, and this match made a truly strong case to leave this section blank.
But Weghorst never stopped working up front and created two gilt-edged chances. He set Gakpo free who couldn’t find Dumfries with his flashing cross, before Weghorst handed Reijnders a golden chance at a first-time shot a few minutes later, but the midfielder took a touch and the chance was lost.
Maybe it’s not surprising that Weghorst did all the work for the winning goal himself then, pirouetting Collins and then calmly rifling his shot past into the roof of the net, giving Bazunu no chance.
NETHERLANDS: Verbruggen 6, De Vrij 6, Van Dijk 7, Blind 6, Dumfries 7, Reijnders 7, Schouten 6, Hartman 6, Simons 7, Weghorst 8, Gakpo 7
Subs: Koopmeiners 6, Malen 7, De Roon 6, Veerman 6
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Bazunu 7, Collins 5, O’Shea 5, Scales 7, Doherty 6, Browne 6, Cullen 6, Manning 6, Robinson 5, Knight 6, Ferguson 6
Subs: Idah 6, Molumby 6, McGrath 6, Parrott 6, Johnston 7
11’ – GOAL! NETHERLANDS 1-0 REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Wout Weghorst opens the scoring for the hosts! He held off Nathan Collins with ease expecting a pass, then turned and streaked away into the Irish half, taking all the time in the world in the penalty area before firing into the roof of the net.
23’ – GAKPO GOES CLOSE: The Dutch haven’t had too much attacking interplay thus far but that was lovely, Gakpo playing a one-two with Simons as Weghorst backheeled the flick-on, but it still fell just out of reach for Gakpo. That was really promising from the home attacking trio.
38’ – TIPPING THE SCALES: The Dutch almost doubled their lead with a devastating move there, Denzel Dumfries gets the ball in acres of space on the right and looked to meet the dangerous run of Gakpo. Gakpo nearly latched on for a point-blank shot too, but Liam Scales’ despairing dive just got there first.
53’ – SUPERB SAVE… THEN NOT SO MUCH: The Dutch look more and more threatening every minute, they’re encamped around the Irish area and the visiting defence can’t get close.
First, Weghorst tipped on a first-time shot from around the penalty spot and Bazunu reacts superbly to change direction and keep it out. But he does less well dealing with Reijnders’ follow-up shot from the range, it slips through his arms and he looks relieved to see it strike the post and stay out.
55’ – FERGUSON DEPARTS: Brighton fans look away now. Evan Ferguson is off, looking distraught as he limps from the field with Jamie McGrath replacing him.
73’ – REIJNDERS BUTCHERS GOLDEN CHANCE: The Dutch are on their way to Euro 2024, but they’ll have to be so much better than tonight if they’re to make an impression at that tournament.
Weghorst found the lively Reijnders at full charge in the Irish penalty area, but the midfielder inexplicably takes a touch allowing the visitors to clear. He looked certain to score with a first-time shot there.
Excluding their two games against Gibraltar, Ireland have lost every qualifier at an aggregate of 10-2.
Six senior defenders were unavailable to Ronald Koeman, including Nathan Ake and Matthijs de Ligt.