Michael O'Neill 'devastated' as Northern Ireland fall to late Netherlands defeat

Gavin Whyte

Gavin Whyte

"When the plot changed into as soon as made in Dublin, we knew we were within the toughest crew", O'Neill talked about.

"It was very hard on us to lose two goals so late in the game, having defended for so long and gone ahead in the game", O'Neill said.

O'Neill spoke before the match of sowing doubt within the minds of a young Dutch crew making an try to steer clear of the ignominy of failing to be triumphant in a 3rd successive major tournament, and for 80 minutes it working.

Daley Blind miscued two attempted clearances and was then beaten by Dallas, whose cross was expertly met by Magennis as he rose above Matthijs de Ligt to score.

Holland coach Ronald Koeman called Magennis' goal an "axe in the neck" but his side stumbled back to their feet.

Memphis Depay equalised for the Netherlands just five minutes later, but their hearts were broken when Luuk de Jong scrambled home in injury time to give the hosts the lead, before Depay scored his second to seal the three points.

De Jong had come off the bench, as did highly-rated youngsters Donyell Malen and Donny Van de Beek, while O'Neill brought on Magennis, Jordan Thompson and Tom Flanagan. "We want to be a team that's better than that".

Northern Ireland had battled bravely for 90 minutes and looked like they would be rewarded with a point that would have kept them firmly in the reckoning to reach the finals next summer.

The 3-1 defeat was a gut-wrenching turnaround for Northern Ireland, who had said from the outset the minimum requirement was four points from their doubleheader with the Dutch, who are due in Belfast next month. But he added that although the top-ranked side had achieved their main goal, they would not be taking it easy as their next aim was "to go for 30 (points) from 30 in the group".

"You don't need to be a mathematician to see we need six points and it's going to be very hard".