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Nothing to separate Ireland and Netherlands

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Netherlands
The Dutch could not break down a determined Ireland side, who struck the underside of the crossbar late on in the first fixture in Group D.

Ireland defender Conor Masterson shields possession from Nigel Robertha
Ireland defender Conor Masterson shields possession from Nigel Robertha ©Sportsfile

Ireland and the Netherlands open Group D with 0-0 draw in the coastal town of Sozopol
Dutch dominate proceedings for long periods but cannot break through
Ireland's Jamie Aherne directs header against underside of crossbar late on
Next matches: Ireland v Italy, Netherlands v England (Sunday)

The Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands played out a goalless draw in the first match in UEFA European Under-17 Championship Group D.

Belying the early heat in Sozopol, both teams made a high-intensity start, Conor Levingston perfectly executing a tackle on Mink Peeters as the Dutch No15 sized up a shot on Caoimhin Kelleher's goal. The Ireland keeper was pressed into service on the quarter-hour, though, saving with his legs after Carel Eiting had seized on Zachary Elbouzedi's headed clearance to the edge of the penalty area.

In Manchester United FC's Timothy Fosu-Mensah, the Netherlands have an imposing presence at centre-back and from one of the captain's forays upfield Javairo Dilrosun stepped inside a challenge and warmed the palms of Kelleher.

Better might have followed six minutes before the interval when some slick interplay between Rashaan Fernandes and Dani De Wit culminated with Dilrosun having an effort blocked from close range.

The Netherlands quickly picked up from where they left off at the end of the first half, Nigel Robertha heading Giovanni Troupée's right-wing cross over the bar. More often than not, however, there was an Ireland body in the way to block their advances, Darragh Leahy exemplifying the team in green determination's with a last-ditch challenge to deny Robertha.

If it was not a defender frustrating them then it was Kelleher, who superbly tipped a powerful drive from Eiting against the upright midway through the second period. As thunder rumbled overhead, Ireland sensed that they might sneak a winner, Trevor Clarke flashing a shot across goal before substitute Jamie Aherne headed the latter's delivery against the underside of the bar with three minutes left.

Reaction
Thomas Mohan, Ireland manager
In the first 20 minutes we were doing very well and in control of the game, but towards half-time the Netherlands got a grip. After the break they put a lot of pressure on us and our keeper pulled off some great saves. We defended really well, too. As the half wore on we created a number of very good chances. We clipped the post with a free-kick and the keeper has made a great save onto the bar from a header. A draw is probably a fair result.

Maarten Stekelenburg, Netherlands coach
We tried to win the match, but, unfortunately, things didn't go our way. In the end we also need to be thankful that we didn't concede a goal. We have a point, so there's no disappointment [about not winning], and we now prepare for the next game.