Following a routine win away in Senec, the Netherlands dropped points at home to the Republic of Ireland as Northern Ireland claimed their own win over Slovakia, leaving Group 3 wide open, with no one assured automatic qualification to the 2019 World Cup.
Slovakia 0-5 Netherlands
Having already seen the ball cleared off of the line at a left-sided corner in the fifth minute, the Dutch were determined to make their next set-piece count. Sherida Spitse’s short one-two with Jackie Groenen the precursor to a fine whipped cross from the former for Stefanie van der Gragt to flick into the back of the net.
The chances continued to flow for the European champions, though unable to take any of them they rode their luck to avoid giving up a penalty ten minutes before the break when Klaudia Fabová went down in the box under Desiree van Lunteren’s challenge – a rare foray forward for the Falcons. The advantage finally doubled by Spitse with a trademark thunderous free kick from 25-yards that shot over the two-man wall and crashed down behind Maria Korenčiová as it curled under the ball. Spitse was involved again three minutes later with another deadball that lead to a goal, her floated corner finding Vivianne Miedema near the back-post for the 21-year-old to bring under control before lashing into the far side of the net.
The game put beyond reasonable doubt seconds into the second half when Miedema flicked Shanice van de Sanden’s low ball past Korenčiová. More coherent from open play, the visitors continued to create and question the home defence, Spitse close again with a powerful effort from outside the area twenty-minutes into the half. Though it wasn’t until the death that the Oranje got their fifth and final goal of the night, van der Gragt the one to close up the proceedings with another neat header to bury Lineth Beerensteyn’s smooth cross.
Slovakia 1-3 Northern Ireland
Looking to bounce back from their loss four days previous, Slovakia got off to a strong start in Žilina, taking the lead twenty minutes in through captain, Jana Vojteková when she turned home Mária Mikolajová’s corner. From there on things went downhill for the hosts who found themselves caught out by Northern Ireland time and again, parity restored by Julie Nelson ten minutes before the break when she fired Rachel Furness’ free kick home.
Furness was involved again not long after the break to give the Green and White Army the lead before 21-year-old Caragh Milligan added a third just after the hour.
Throughout the match the Falcons saw the more consistent chances, not just mustering up twice as many shots as their opposition to putting more on target, but the visitors dug in and (like their southern neighbours in Nijmegen) rested on a strong defensive-core to see them through.
Netherlands 0-0 Republic of Ireland
In what should have, on paper, been another routine win for the Netherlands the hosts found themselves up against a defensively stubborn Irish team who dug in for a huge point to take them second in the group, yet to concede a goal in qualification.
Peppering the goal from the off, the Oranje couldn’t find a way past Marie Hourihan or her watertight defence who were blocking and clearing at every turn. The best chance for the hosts coming seven minutes before the break when Miedema swept the ball against the upright with the ‘keeper rooted.
The game wasn’t without its controversies however, as the Dutch saw a strong penalty appeal waved away three minutes from time when the ball skimmed off of Niamh Fahey’s knee and bounced against Diane Caldwell’s lofted hands. The debates raged through the last minutes of the game as Anastasia Pustovoitova remained unmoved, the home players still aggrieved after the whistle having dropped two important points – though they’re now unbeaten in 12.