Euro 2020 qualifying: Dutch protests led to Davis' penalty miss, says O'Neill

Referee should have handled penalty better - O'Neill

Michael O'Neill says the Netherlands' prolonged protests led to Northern Ireland skipper Steven Davis' penalty miss in the Euro 2020 qualifier.

Virgil van Dijk led Dutch complaints about referee Szymon Marciniak's decision and Davis blasted his spot-kick over the bar after a long delay.

"There's no doubt it influenced him," said O'Neill following the 0-0 draw which left Northern Ireland's Euro 2020 hopes resting on a play-off.

"It put doubt in his mind."

Polish referee Marciniak awarded the penalty for a Joel Veltman handball and after he eventually waved Liverpool defender Van Dijk and other Dutch players away. Netherlands keeper Jasper Cillessen indulged in further gamesmanship by walking from his goalline to the penalty spot to complain about the positioning of the ball.

"There's nothing worse than standing there taking a penalty and you're desperate to take it," O'Neill told BBC Sport Northern Ireland.

"He [the referee] should have handled that situation better.

"Van Dijk was very vocal with the referee in disputing the penalty. Then when the referee eventually gets round to setting it up, he lets the goalkeeper walk out of the box, off the line, to remonstrate for some reason.

"There's no doubt that affected Steven. He's not missed any penalties, I think, in my time here."

After Northern Ireland carved out a number of good chances in an impressive start to the contest, O'Neill said that Davis' penalty miss dented his team's morale.

"It would have been lovely go go in 1-0 up at half-time and see how we would have played 1-0 up. That would have given us a lift and a bit of energy. I think it took a bit of energy away from us, if I'm honest," he added.

Virgil van Dijk protests to Polish referee Szymon Marciniak after he awarded Northern Ireland's first-half penalty
Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk led the prolonged Dutch protests after Northern Ireland were awarded their penalty

NI 'can take encouragement into play-offs'

Victory would have kept alive Northern Ireland's hopes of automatic progression to the Euro 2020 Finals from Group C going into Tuesday's final qualifier against Germany in Frankfurt.

However, the Northern Ireland boss says the team's recent performances against the Group C heavyweights must encourage them for their play-off.

"We've competed with two of the top teams in Europe, with top players who play in the top clubs in Europe, and we've not been beaten easily in any of the games," said O'Neill, who is set to remain in charge for the play-off despite his recent appointment as Stoke City manager.

"We were disappointed to lose the game here against Germany [2-0]. We've drawn here against Holland. We led against Holland in Rotterdam [before losing 3-1] so there are so many things for us to be positive about.

"Equally we have to make sure that when we come to those play-offs, that the level of performance is at that level and we have to be clinical. That's the lesson that we've learned from these three games.

"We started the game very well. We had maybe three really good chances in the opening 10 minutes.

"We talked about being clinical in these games. We just haven't managed to do that and against this level of opposition."

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