Wout Weghorst broke Irish hearts with the goal that almost certainly ends their hopes of automatic qualification for Euro 2024 and piles more pressure on manager Stephen Kenny.
The former Manchester United striker, who struggled to impress during a loan spell at Old Trafford last season and now plays for Hoffenheim in Germany, climbed off the bench at the Aviva Stadium last night to complete Holland’s comeback after Ireland had rocked Ronaldo Koeman’s side by taking an early lead.
It was Ireland’s fourth defeat in five games in Group B and means they now trail Holland and Greece by six points in the race to qualify behind runaway Group B leaders France. Their next games are against Greece and Gibraltar next month, but it already looks like a hopeless task after losing what was dubbed a must-win game.
Kenny had called on Ireland to produce the ‘performance of their lives’ on a par with the famous 1-0 World Cup qualifying win over Holland in Dublin 22 years ago this month, and his players didn’t waste any time in rising to the challenge.
The game was seconds old when new Brentford goalkeeper Mark Flekken played a risky ball out from the back to Frenkie de Jong who was dispossessed by Alan Browne, and Alan Idah fed Chiedozie Ogbene whose effort was blocked by Mats Wieffer.
Wout Weghorst scored the winning goal for the Netherlands in a 2-1 victory over the Republic of Ireland in Dublin
Liverpool’s Cody Gakpo drew the visitors level from the penalty sport after Ireland goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu committed a foul
Adam Idah had given Ireland an early lead after Virgil van Dijk was penalised for handball in his own box
It was only a temporary reprieve as captain Shane Duffy met James McClean’s corner from the right and Bosnia referee Irfan Peljto ruled that Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk had handled inside his own box.
It seemed a harsh decision given that the ball hit Van Dijk’s trailing arm and he had little time to react, but the penalty stood and Idah – deputising for the injured Evan Ferguson – converted from the spot after only three minutes.
It was the catalyst for an excellent start from the Irish but Holland equalised with a penalty of their own in the 19th minute from their first attack of note.
Duffy was playing Denzel Dumfries onside when he raced onto a throughball from Liverpool winger Cody Gakpo, and he was taken out by Gavin Bazunu. The Southampton keeper got a hand to Gakpo’s penalty but couldn’t quite keep it out.
Bazunu denied Donyell Malen twice before half-time and Ogbene failed to convert for a second time before the excellent Browne caught De Jong in possession again, and frustrated Dutch boss Ronaldo Koeman responded by sending on Weghorst and Tijjani Reijnders at half-time.
Holland seized control of the game and both substitutes were involved in the goal that saw Holland take the lead in the 56th minute.
Ireland inexplicably stood off as Reijnders played the ball to De Jong who lifted it over the top for Dumfries.
The Inter Milan had three assists in Holland’s win over Greece last week and he headed back for Weghorst to turn the ball home with a clinical first-time finish for his second goal of this international break.
Ireland did their best to come back but required two goals to secure the win they really needed and couldn’t trouble the Dutch again.
Republic of Ireland: Bazunu, Collins, Duffy, Egan, Doherty, Brown, Cullen, McLean, Knight, Ogbene, Idah
Goals: Idah (pen)
The Netherlands: Flekken, De Ligt, Van Dijk, Ake, Dumfries, Wieffer, De Jong, Blind, Simons, Malen, Gakpo
Goals: Gakpo (pen), Weghorst