The Netherlands overcame a jittery start in Dublin to take a big step towards qualifying for next year’s European Championships with a win over the Republic of Ireland.
Wout Weghorst scored the decisive goal early in the second half after coming on as a substitute, one of two changes by manager Ronald Koeman after a lacklustre first period.
The hosts went ahead after just four minutes after Virgil van Dijk handled the ball while trying to clear a corner. Norwich City striker Adam Idah tucked away the resultant penalty.
Head coach Ronald Koeman admitted that it had been a tough match for his team. “They played hard, one-on-one, we had problems with that in the early stages and we weren’t good in possession,” he said.
“We ran too much with the ball, we didn’t get it back quickly and we had problems defensively on the left side. It was ragged, but it changed in the second half.”
The Dutch equalised with a spot-kick of their own when Irish goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu brought down Denzel Dumfries in the penalty area as the right-back ran onto Cody Gakpo’s pass. Bazunu dived the right way but was unable to keep out Gakpo’s low shot.
The Republic were the better side for most of the first half as they harried the Dutch off the ball and came close to retaking the lead when Chiedozie Ogbene’s shot was deflected behind for a corner.
Koeman brought on Weghorst and AC Milan’s Tijjani Reinders for the second half as the Dutch switched to a four-man defence.
And it took just 10 minutes for the changes to bear fruit as Dumfries headed Frenkie de Jong’s through-ball into the path of Weghorst, who made no mistake from close range.
Oranje took control of the game after that without creating any clear chances and secured the three points that leaves them favourites to qualify from Group B.
Greece, who beat Gibraltar 5-0 on Sunday, and the Netherlands both have nine points, but the Dutch have a game in hand and finish their campaign against Gibraltar.
The next matches are at home to France on October 13 and against Greece in Athens on October 16.
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