Republic of Ireland. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0
THE World Cup ambitions of the Republic of Ireland were first derailed here yesterday by the arch goalscorer who has rained havoc on the footballing men of the British Isles throughout this long and hard season, and then lost for good through the fumbling fingers of their own record-breaking goalkeeper.
That it should be Pat Bonner who ultimately condemned his team to begin the homeward journey back to Dublin this morning was a cruel reminder of how the fates of this wonderful game can swing violently from joy to despair. Four years ago at this same stage of the world's greatest sporting competition, the man from Donegal who stands proudest of all among Irishmen was a hero with the penalty save against Romania that took his small nation to the quarter-finals in Italy. Now, just before half- time, he compounded Terry Phelan's earlier mistake by flapping at Wim Jonk's ambitious shooter and conceding the softest of goals.
Phelan's abberration was scarcely less embarrassing, a misplaced header allowing Dennis Bergkamp to extend the scoring prowess that previously put paid to England's hopes in the qualifying campaign, and Norwich's romantic adventure in the Uefa Cup.
So it is the Netherlands, at last finding and sustaining their best lines after an unimpressive run through the first- round fixtures, who deservedly advance to a quarter-final in Dallas on Saturday.
In a frenetic start, Steve Staunton's free-kick took a considerable deflection and narrowly cleared the crossbar. That was after a mere 60 seconds. The Dutch replied instantly when Bergkamp showed his heels for the first time down the left.
The Internazionale striker got away from both John Sheridan and Gary Kelly, and a dangerous cross demanded a clearing header from Phil Babb. The dependable Coventry stopper was soon called back into the action as Peter van Vossen moved menacingly on to another forceful break and Babb was required to make an important tackle on the stretch.
There was an easy, controlled momentum about the Dutch that transmitted concern through the ranks of the Irish support. Van Vossen transferred his attentions momentarily to the other flank, bursting through Phelan's attempt to stop him, but although Marc Overmars met his cut-back delivery well enough, he topped his attempt to score.
It enabled Kelly to clear but there was little relief for Ireland's hard-pressed defensive line, as back came the Dutch again. Wim Jonk's searching pass in the 11th minute looked to have been intercepted by Phelan. His header back towards Bonner should have been routine enough, but he left it short and that was always likely to induce a fatal consequence with a pace man such as Overmars breathing down his neck.
In full flight, the tenacious winger who did for Des Walker at Wembley held off Babb and had time enough to supply Bergkamp, who dispatched his second goal of this World Cup with ease.
Ireland's response was fitful. They could not claim enough possession to exert prolonged pressure on the Dutch goal. Roy Keane lifted his attempt over and then directed a low shot at Ed de Goey. Andy Townsend was becoming more of an influence on the proceedings, and another left-wing raid ended with Ray Houghton applying a touch that Frank de Boer hurried to clear away.
A breakthrough then, and the outcome may have been different. What in fact transpired was a second goal for the Dutch, engineered and supplied by Jonk but a goal that will go down as a gift from Bonner.
The chance to make a game of it came and went early in the second half when Houghton aimed his header too high. On came Tony Cascarino to win the headers but nothing was falling for Charlton's men. Paul McGrath found the net and then found his strike ruled out due to a high kick on Frank Rijkaard. A brave run which began gloriously with the defeat of Italy had met journey's end.
NETHERLANDS (1-2-4-3): De Goey (Feyenoord); Koeman (Barcelona); Valckx (Sporting Lisbon), F de Boer; Rijkaard (both Ajax), Winter (Lazio), Jonk (Internazionale), Witschge (Feyenoord); Overmars (Ajax), Bergkamp (Internazionale), Van Vossen (Ajax). Substitutes: Roy (Foggia) for Van Vossen, 71; Numan (PSV Eindhoven) for Witschge, 80.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (4-5-1): Bonner (Celtic); G Kelly (Leeds United), McGrath (Aston Villa), Babb (Coventry City), Phelan (Manchester City); Houghton (Aston Villa), Keane (Manchester United), Townsend (Aston Villa), Sheridan (Sheffield Wednesday), Staunton (Aston Villa); Coyne (Motherwell). Substitutes: McAteer (Bolton Wanderers) for Staunton, 64; Cascarino (Chelsea) for Coyne, 75.
Referee: P Mikkelsen (Denmark).
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