Netherlands avoid stumble against Portugal thanks to Danielle van de Donk stunner

The Netherlands have yet to convince but Danielle van de Donk’s goal clinched three important points

Minus their record scorer, the Netherlands instead mustered a wonderful goal. The issue for the holders was that it was required to earn them victory against the tournament’s ultimate underdogs. The chances are that absent Vivianne Miedema, who was ruled out by Covid, would have admired Danielle van de Donk’s spectacular decider. Maybe it took something special to defeat a spirited Portuguese side but, while they have seemed luckless amid injuries and illness, the Netherlands’ defence of their title has been unconvincing so far. And, indeed, their defence was unconvincing as Portugal mounted a second comeback in as many games.

This contained too much drama for the Netherlands’ liking, but it was evidence of Portugal’s irrepressible streak. Late additions to the tournament, when Russia were expelled, they are becoming one of the stories of it. Once again, they went 2-0 down and responded to draw level. This time, however, it was not enough to earn them a point and they will need to beat Sweden to avoid an early exit while the Dutch have one foot in the quarter-finals. They may nevertheless envy their former manager, Sarina Wiegman, who has twin wins including an 8-0 thrashing so far. Her successor, Mark Parsons, had an altogether nervier evening as his side threatened to pay for their profligacy and defensive shortcomings.

In mitigation, he has lost four key players, being forced to make changes in attack, midfield, defence and in goal with Miedema and Jackie Groenen missing while centre-back Aniek Nouwen was injured in their draw against Sweden, and goalkeeper and captain Sari van Veenendaal was ruled out of the competition. Parsons’ plans were subject to a rapid rethink and one of his changes brought early vindication when Damaris Egurrola marked her first start for her country with the opening goal.

Van de Donk was swarmed after her long-range winner

She rose highest to head in Sherida Spitse’s corner on a night when Portugal had reasons to rue their inability to defend corners. The stand-in skipper Spitse took them expertly and they produced two goals and almost a third. The second stemmed from the bravery of Stefanie van der Gragt, who took a kick to her face as she plunged forward to head in Van de Donk’s shot. Then Van der Gragt generated plenty of power on a header only for Carole Costa to clear off the line.

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It formed the first in a rare hat-trick of crucial contributions by Costa, who also ended with a goal and an assist. But while the Dutch were dominant at that point, with Miedema’s replacement Lineth Beerensteyn relentless as she made a series of forceful runs, they had nevertheless weathered a couple of early alarms. Within the first four minutes, Tatiana Pinto was left unmarked to shoot, with Daphne van Domselaar tipping her effort over, and the offside Ana Borges had a goal disallowed.

If Portugal had a particularly distinguished fan club, with the Manchester City trio of Bernardo Silva, Ruben Dias and Joao Cancelo lending support from Leigh’s version of the posh seats, their compatriots gave them much to cheer. They produced an enterprising display, with the outstanding Jessica Silva showcasing speed and skill; a rabona drew particular cheers from the vocal Portugal fans.

Portugal made another comeback but the Netherlands would prevail

The surprise, perhaps, was that their goals did not involve her, though her namesake Diana Silva was pivotal in both. She was tripped by Dominique Janssen, an offence referee Ivana Martincic initially overlooked. A VAR intervention later and Costa was able to slot in the penalty.

Then Portugal made a superb start to the second half. Some 30 seconds in, Pinto had a header well saved by Van Domselaar. Portugal nevertheless drew level immediately after, Costa crossing for Diana Silva to plant an emphatic header in and the Netherlands, who only conceded three goals in winning Euro 2017, had already conceded three in Euro 2022.

It seemed as though Jill Roord had drilled the Dutch back ahead, only for a clinical finish to be chalked off for a marginal offside after an interminable VAR delay. Instead, their lead was restored in memorable fashion, with Van de Donk’s 25-yard effort. It was a worthy winner, but whether or not it proves the goal of the tournament, the Dutch may need more solidity to be the team of it.

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