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Joy and relief for Dutch marathon woman

Netherlands skipper Inessa Kaagman admitted that "a dream first half" almost turned into a nightmare as Scotland's comeback left her exasperated and exhausted.

Inessa Kaagman (with the captain's armband) celebrates during the first half
Inessa Kaagman (with the captain's armband) celebrates during the first half ©Sportsfile

Netherlands skipper Inessa Kaagman said she felt like she had run a marathon after a pulsating match against Scotland on Friday, in which her side's comfortable 3-0 half-time advantage was cut to a nervy 3-2 victory.

"It was a dream first half," said the 18-year-old. "Scotland were almost powerless at times because we put them under a lot of pressure. Vivianne [Miedema] scored twice and it was important that she played because she's a really good target to aim at. She is really easy to find. She was able to score because we as a team put her into scoring positions but the fact that she finished the chances is just awesome!

"Then came the second half." Kaagman's joyful tone darkens in an exhausted, exasperated instant to one of disappointment. "The second half was nothing compared to the first because we played with too much space in between the lines. This meant the midfielders, me and Kim Mourmans, had to run too much to get involved in the attacks as well as the defence. The Scottish used this to their advantage and played freely.

"We intended to play more from the defensive line in the second half, meaning fewer chances, but it seems we dropped too far back because we just ended up with chances against! It was really frustrating. I tried to keep everybody going and organised, but then the forwards are understandably asking for the ball to attack. It was really difficult for us midfielders – we were running a marathon! As a captain you try to coach the team but since I have a cold I don't think everybody heard me!

Miedema and Simone Kets
Miedema and Simone Kets©Sportsfile

"We never thought we were going to play the match out easily and we wanted to keep them under pressure but we didn't succeed." Indeed, Dominique Janssen's own goal and substitute Carolina Richardson's prod home pulled it back to 3-2 before the Dutch, cajoled by the indefatigable Kaagman, held on. They are now level with Norway on four points at the top of Group A, with a UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship semi-final spot almost in reach. A point against Belgium on Monday will be enough.

"Our fate is now in our own hands but we are going to play to win against Belgium just to be sure. We've played them before and beat them but that doesn't mean anything. It is always a special match."

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