Defending European champions the Netherlands struggled in a 3-2 win against a stubborn Portuguese side in Group C.

The Netherlands haven’t looked convincing in their two games in the tournament so far and were affected by injuries to their captain Sari van Veenendaal after suffering a shoulder injury in the first game, defender Aniek Nouwen has ankle problems and their all-time top goal scorer Vivianne Miedema tested positive to COVID-19 along with midfielder Jackie Groenen.

This was Portugal’s second appearance in the Euro’s final tournament and they have a terrible record against the Netherlands who had won the previous four games in all competitions and scored 16 goals against them.

Despite that poor record against the Dutch, Portugal started the brightest and scored an early goal when Jéssica Silva passed the ball to Ana Borges in the box, who finished near the post in the 4th minute – but was judged offside.

Later, Netherlands manager Mark Parsons praised his team’s control of the game but suggested their defending in the opening minutes was not “acceptable”.

“We did some good things both sides of the ball, but we also did things all throughout the game that we have to improve on, and I’ve been consistent in that,” he said.

“We’re a good team but we are trying to become a great team and we have to learn from each game and we have to grow from each game.

“We lost four players before this, playing a team with a lot of energy and personality, we did a great job of getting the important three points.”

A shaky start could not contain the Dutch going forward and they responded by scoring from match captain Sherida Spitse’s corner, with US-born Dutch player Damaris Egurrola’s looping header getting past the keeper in the 6th minute making it 1-0.

The Dutch players won every contested aerial duel in the game with Portugal struggling to keep up due to the height disadvantage, but did enough to stop them from having clean and clear strikes toward their goal.

Netherland’s Stefanie van der Gragt scored from another corner kick when the Portuguese defence failed to properly clear Lieke Martens’ scuffed shot which led to the chance in the 15th minute.

The Dutch Lionesses qualified for the tournament in the best form having won 10 out of 10 matches and scoring 47 goals in the process – conceding only three.

As the game progressed the Netherlands started dominating ball possession and had 63 per cent with Portugal only enjoying 37 per cent, this also meant they created numerous shots on goal with 16 to Portugal’s 10.

Daniëlle van de Donk failed to extend their lead by placing her shot wide of the target and minutes later, Van der Gragt almost scored again from another corner in the 31st minute when she was left unmarked, but her header was cleared off the line by Borges.

In a game with drama, poor defending and temper, the Dutch dominance at times was there to be seen when they had 324 passes completed while Portugal had 164 in the game.

Portugal in the 33rd minute used the rarest opportunity they had to carve open the Dutch defence and Dominique Janssen’s slight touch on Portuguese forward Silva in the box was judged by a lengthy VAR check as a penalty, which Portugal’s Carole Costa converted in the 37th minute making it 2-1.

This team has personality and what I want tomorrow is for us to be competitive and for the players to enjoy themselves.

The underdogs of the match-up started the second half differently with Tatiana Pinto’s header saved by the young deputy goalkeeper Daphne van Domselaar, keeping the Netherlands ahead.

In the pre-match press conference, Portuguese manager Francisco Neto proclaimed his team has the “personality” and is “very competitive” and wants to defeat the Netherlands.

“This team has personality and what I want tomorrow is for us to be competitive and for the players to enjoy themselves, if that happens, I’m absolutely sure that we’ll leave at the end of the game very happy,” he said.

“We are much more competitive [and] we manage to stay in the games much longer [and] we manage to have results that allow us to depend on us and they know that.

“I want them to have pleasure in the game because when that happens they are very strong and they are very competitive and they enjoy it, then in the end, if we are better than the Netherlands, the three points will come and we will celebrate.”

Both teams were ill-disciplined and had a fair share of yellow cards in the game with Inês Pereira booked in the 96th minute, Diana Gomes 88th minute, Roord 88th, Beerensteyn in the 54th, Damaris Egurrola 39th, Janssen 37th and Catarina Amado 17th.

The comeback queens of the tournament having done the same against Switzerland days earlier continued in a similar vein and Portugal’s Costa’s cross in the box was met with Diana Silva’s perfect header to make it 2-2 in the 46th minute.

VAR was called on again in the 48th minute and judged Lineth Beerensteyn’s shoulder as offside after assisting Jill Roord’s goal, cancelling it and keeping the scoreline level.

The Portuguese side was good going forward but dreadful when defending, and from a throw-in, Martens passed the ball to Van De Donk on the edge of the box and had time and space to spot an angle and scored a beauty in the 61st minute making it 3-2 to the Dutch.

After conceding Portugal tried to get back in the game again but their attacks lacked spark with the Netherlands neutralising most of them.

Portugal will be playing Sweden on July 16. A result in the Switzerland and Netherlands fixture can still go in their favour and have them progress out of the group stages to the quarter-finals for the first time in their history.

Image: screenshot from Optus Sports.