The Netherlands were grateful for Wim Kieft's freak 82nd-minute winner as Rinus Michels' side advanced to the 1988 UEFA European Championship semi-finals at the Republic of Ireland's expense.
With the exit door looming for the Oranje's campaign, Ronald Koeman drove a volley straight into the ground, which bounced up for Kieft to get in a glancing header. The ball seemed sure to go wide but there was so much spin on it that it jagged back remarkably inside Pat Bonner's left-hand post. The Dutch lived to fight another day; Ireland returned home chastened.
Jack Charlton's side, making their bow in the finals, had cause to feel aggrieved. Indeed, they had come closest to scoring in Gelsenkirchen from their only corner of the match. Paul McGrath rose majestically above the defence and headed the ball firmly down against the base of the post. A last ditch intervention by Gerald Vanenburgh prevented the ball spinning over the goal line.
McGrath was imperious, a colossus with bad knees. Injury to right-back Chris Morris forced him to vacate his midfield berth for this game as cover but he was as influential as ever – at both ends. He did not deserve to be a footnote for the winner, as with desperate Dutch pressure mounting it was his header that Ronald Koeman unintentionally turned towards Kieft.
The underdogs had gone out with glory, and their fans enjoyed the occasion to the very end, singing and chanting at the stadium for half an hour after full time. The orange half of the ground breathed a collective sigh of relief – their time would come.
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