Netherlands 3-2 Portugal: Staggering Danielle van de Donk ensures defending champions survive fear

Van de Donk’s 62nd-minute thunderbolt will be one of the goals of the tournament, the thunderbolt in a thrilling Group C game that saw the Netherlands claim a 3-2 victory at Leigh Sports Village. But it was not at all simple.

The Netherlands, who drew against Sweden last weekend, were initially in charge and headers from Damaris Egurrola and Stefanie van der Gragt put them 2-0 ahead in the opening 20 minutes.

After two goals less to draw against Switzerland, Portugal did it again as Carole Costa’s penalty and Diana Silva’s header either side of the half equalized.

But Van de Donk ultimately had the last laugh, with the defending champions moving level with Sweden on four points while Portugal are alongside Switzerland on one.

On the day she made her 146th international appearance to become Portugal’s most capped player, Ana Borges struck home but the celebrations were immediately interrupted by an offside in the build-up.

Instead, Portugal found themselves in a familiar position after scoring the opening two goals, with a corner at the near post to find Egurrola, whose wide header looped into the far corner.

Portugal were again defeated from a set piece as another corner was only half cleared, Lieke Martens’ shot deflecting into Van der Gragt’s path to pass Ines Pereira.

Van der Gragt needed treatment on the nose after being unintentionally kicked in the face by Catarina Amado, who was then shown a yellow card, but the Dutch defender was cleared to continue.

An unmarked Van de Donk saw its side volley drift away as Costa cleared the line as one-way traffic continued, but soon after Portugal was given a lifeline.

Portugal halved the deficit from the penalty spot just before the break

/ AFP via Getty Images

Diana went past Dominique Janssen in the area before she stumbled and a lengthy check with the video assistant referee indicated that the Portuguese striker had taken a decisive blow to his trailing ankle.

Carole made no mistake with the kick fired in the 38th minute, destabilizing the Dutch, sluggish at the start of the second half, Daphne van Domselaar brilliantly tipping Tatiana Pinto’s head.

With the corner cleared, the Netherlands defenders were still out of position and Carole’s cross from the right allowed Diana to slip past Van der Gragt and take the lead for Portugal after 47 minutes.

Jill Roord appeared to have restored Holland’s lead minutes later after hitting the net, but VAR ruled out the goal for the tightest offside.

There was no denying that the Netherlands retook the lead in style, with Van de Donk’s curling effort just outside the area sailing into the top corner despite Ines’ taut dive.

The Netherlands held on in the closing stages, including five minutes of added time, as despite a moment of nervousness they secured their first victory of the tournament.

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