Euro 2020 qualifiers: NI boss Michael O'Neill devastated after 'harsh' defeat in Rotterdam

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Fatigue a major factor in 'cruel' defeat - O'Neill

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill said he was devastated after what he described as a harsh defeat for his side against the Netherlands.

O'Neill's men suffered a last-gasp 3-1 loss to the Dutch in their Euro 2020 qualifier in Rotterdam, after having taken the lead in the 75th minute.

Injury-time goals from Luuk de Jong and Memphis Depay won it for the hosts after Depay had earlier equalised following Josh Magennis's opener.

"That was very cruel," said O'Neill.

"We are devastated, especially with the nature of the defeat. Conceding the two goals in injury time made it a very harsh result for us.

"For long periods they didn't cause us many problems and it was brilliant to go ahead when we did. We were disappointed when they equalised but then we were hoping to get out of the game with a point."

Depay's equaliser arrived five minutes after NI took the lead
Depay's equaliser arrived five minutes after NI took the lead

Magennis's headed goal from a Stuart Dallas cross came from what was one of very few Northern Ireland attacks during the game.

The visitors showed excellent defensive discipline throughout the encounter, with O'Neill saying their game plan was working well until the late goals.

"We knew we would have to defend for long periods and were pushed back a lot by a team full of world-class players," he added.

"What would you expect with them being the home nation? However, we also knew that we would get a chance at some stage and we were delighted to go ahead.

"Ultimately, with fatigue and everything else we just couldn't hold on."

Kyle Lafferty
Kyle Lafferty was a surprise starter up front for Northern Ireland

Having won their opening four Group C qualifiers, Northern Ireland's defeat by the Netherlands follows their loss to Germany in Belfast in September.

They have dropped to third in the table, level on points with the Germans and the Dutch but with Ronald Koeman's side top on goal difference.

Northern Ireland finish their qualifying campaign by hosting the Netherlands at Windsor Park and then travelling to take on Germany.

"We have to win those two games if we are going to qualify from the group," added O'Neill, whose side also have a chance of reaching the finals via the Nations League play-offs.

"They are two very difficult games - we are in a head-to-head situation now with them which isn't ideal - and the third goal tonight was disappointing because it was avoidable.

"That obviously makes the head-to-head with the Netherlands that bit more difficult, but the team can be very proud of the account they have given in this group."