The Netherlands have made it to the quarter-finals of Women's Euro 2017 with victory over Belgium by the narrowest of margins: 2-1. The hosts proceed to the last eight as group winners with a 100% record.
The Orange Lionesses started their final Group A match with both Lieke Martens, who had been in doubt because of an ankle injury, and Stefanie van der Gragt, fit enough to return to the centre of the Dutch defence at the expense of Mandy van de Berg, who had been captain during the first two group matches.
Playing in Tilburg, close to the Belgian border, the Dutch faced the fury of the Red Flames, who needed no less than victory to go through to the last eight. But it was the host team that scored first, with captain Sherida Spitse scoring once again from the penalty spot. Belgium struck back 15 minutes after the break, when Tessa Wullaert levelled proceedings with a high, looping shot from well outside the box, which was misjudged by goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal.
The Netherlands only needed a draw, but a deflected effort from winger Lieke Martens on 74 minutes gave them the full three points and the top spot in Group A with maximum points, more than enough for a place in the quarter-finals.
“This is great for Dutch football, and for ourselves”, Lieke Martens told reporters after the match. “Of course, we still have not achieved anything yet, but we hope we can show something good again in the quarter-final on Saturday.”