Belfast Telegraph

'Bitter pill to swallow': Northern Ireland goal hero Josh Magennis striving to take positives from Netherlands defeat

Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis gave his side a 75th minute lead in Rotterdam before the hosts staged a late comeback.
Northern Ireland's Josh Magennis gave his side a 75th minute lead in Rotterdam before the hosts staged a late comeback.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Once again Northern Ireland have given a leading light of world football an almighty scare.

Michael O'Neill and his men felt hard-done-by after the 2-0 home defeat to Germany last month and that's a thought that will be multiplied 10 times over in the aftermath of Thursday's 3-1 loss in the Netherlands.

Another one of Michael O'Neill's masterful game-plans was put into play against a side on the crest of a wave after their 4-2 success in Hamburg last month.

The players on the pitch carried out those orders to a tee, resolutely holding their 4-5-1 shape to form an impenetrable barrier in front of Bailey Peacock-Farrell's goal.

On the basis of their defensive showing, when Josh Magennis headed Northern Ireland ahead on 75 minutes, the GAWA had every right to believe they could hold out and secure the most memorable of wins.

But in-form stars like Memphis Depay only need a sniff. The Lyon forward would go on to net a late brace either side of a Luuk de Jong goal and the Netherlands snatched an undeserved 3-1 win.

"Don't let it get our heads down," Magennis told himself on Sky Sports after the final whistle.

"We were well in the game. We frustrated them and to come in with a defeat is massively disappointing.

"We knew it would be difficult to limit a team like this to minimal chances but when they got the chances they managed to take them. It is a bitter pill to swallow.

"We have to take massive positives. You just have to look at how they celebrated. I don't want to say it was relief but they were under massive pressure and they needed to win the game just as much as we did.

"We went toe-to-toe with them, we took the lead but just couldn't get the win. It's very disappointing in raw emotion but we have to take massive positives from the last two games, frustrating teams like this."

O'Neill, who has achieved so much in his time in charge of Northern Ireland and would so richly deserve a headline win over one of the world's super-powers, summed up the feeling of a nation.

"We are devastated with the nature of the defeat," he said. "I thought we did everything we could to take the lead. We had to defend for long periods but they didn't cause us problems for large periods either.

"The two goals were very cruel in injury-time and it was a very harsh result for us, to be honest.

"We were pushed back by a team full of world class players. What would you expect? It was great for us to take our opportunity but ultimately it was a case of fatigue and we just couldn't hang on.

"The team can be very proud of themselves, we are playing against world class players. We are bringing in two players from League One. There has to be a little bit of perspective. We're disappointed with the result but proud of the performance."

Come the full-time whistle, the 20 minutes since Magennis hit the net seemed a lifetime ago.

Nevertheless, it will be a special memory for the Hull City forward and the 3,500 travelling support at De Kuip.

"Me and Stuarty (Dallas) have a good relationship," he said. "I saw him lining (a cross) up and I was trying to get off the back of (Frenkie) de Jong. Thankfully I got up before he did and managed to get it on target. The place erupted."

Before the lottery of the play-offs (probably) come around at the end of March, Northern Ireland will have two more chances to land a scalp.

If they didn't know before, both the Netherlands and Germany will be aware that they have to be at their best to see off Michael O'Neill's Northern Ireland.

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