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regular-article-logo Thursday, 29 February 2024

Euro 2024 Qualifier: Wout Weghorst nets winner as Dutch rally to overcome Irish hurdle

Defeat for the Irish leaves them having lost four of their five qualifiers and with little chance of qualifying for next year’s finals in Germany

Reuters London Published 12.09.23, 08:20 AM
Virgil van Dijk of the Netherlands challenges Republic of Ireland’s Adam Idah for the ball during their Euro 2024 Qualifier match in Dublin on Sunday.

Virgil van Dijk of the Netherlands challenges Republic of Ireland’s Adam Idah for the ball during their Euro 2024 Qualifier match in Dublin on Sunday. Twitter

Wout Weghorst came off the bench to score a seco­nd-half winner as the Netherlands fought back from conceding an early goal to beat the Republic of Ireland 2-1 in their European Championship Group B qualifier on Sunday.

The Irish went ahead after four minutes when Adam Idah converted a penalty but the Dutch won a spot kick of their own which Cody Gakpo tucked away for the 19th-minute equaliser.

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Weghorst grabbed a second goal for the visitors at the Aviva Stadium after 56
minutes to move the Netherlands up to second in the standings on nine points, six behind leaders France but with a game in a hand. Greece are also on nine points after beating Gibraltar 5-0 at home on Sunday.

Defeat for the Irish leaves them having lost four of their five qualifiers and with little chance of qualifying for next year’s finals in Germany, and with the future of coach Stephen Kenny in doubt.

A horrific defensive mistake inside the first minute allowed Chiedozie Ogbene a chance to put Ireland into the lead but he hesitated too long and his effort was blocked.

Two minutes later, Dutch captain Virgil van Dijk gave away a penalty for a clumsy handball as he attempted to clear a corner and Idah put the home side ahead.

They might have made it 2-0 in the 13th minute but Shane Duffy missed a headed chance at the back post from Ogbene’s cross.

Denzel Dumfries broke through the middle in search of an equaliser in the 18th minute and had his feet taken out from under him by Irish goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu, handing Gakpo the spot kick which he tucked away just wide of the goalkeeper.

Bazunu made two key saves from Donyell Malen before the break but had no chance of stopping Weghorst, who had come on at the break, when he swung his feet on to Dumfries’s header to score from close range.

Dumfries had provided assists on all of the Dutch side’s three goals against Greece in Eindhoven last Thursday and was again pivotal to their success on Sunday.

Setback for Poland

Poland are in danger of missing out on a European Championship spot for the first time since 2004 following a 0-2 loss to surprise Group E leader Albania.

Goals from Jasir Asani and Mirlind Daku — who scored just seconds after coming off the bench — gave Albania a win to overtake the Czech Republic by two points at the top of the group standings. Poland are fourth after three losses in five games. Albania have only qualified for a major tournament once before, at the 2016 European Championship.

Moldova are also in contention to qualify. They are level on eight points with the Czech Republic after beating the Faeroe Islands 1-0. Only the top two in each group qualify automatically for the tournament in Germany next year.

Denmark on top

Pierre-Emile Højbjerg’s 86th-minute goal gave Denmark a 1-0 win over Finland to take a step toward qualifying. Just one point separates the top four teams in the group.

Denmark dominated the game but couldn’t break through the Finnish defence. With the end of the match in sight, Finland dropped deep into their own penalty area, giving Højbjerg time and space on the edge of the box to line up a powerful, low shot which beat goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky.

Denmark and Slovenia top Group H with 13 points — one point ahead of Finland and surprise contender Kazakhstan, who beat Northern Ireland 1-0. Kazakhstan have never before qualified for a European Championship or World Cup. Slovenia eased past San Marino 4-0.

Late winner

Montenegro beat Bulgaria 2-1 on a goal from Stevan Jovetic in the seventh minute of added time to put pressure on qualification rivals Hungary and Serbia in Group G. Montenegro played most of the second half with 10 players after a red card for Igor Vujacic.

Hungary and Serbia are level on 10 points at the top of the group after Serbia beat Lithuania 3-1. Montenegro have eight points. Hungary didn’t play Sunday.

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