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Euro 2017

For Martens, Netherlands off to perfect start

The Netherlands won their EURO Group A opener. (Getty Images)

The Netherlands won their EURO Group A opener. (Getty Images)

UTRECHT, Netherlands – Over two million people in the Netherlands watched the host nation beat Norway 1-0 in Utrecht on the opening day of the Women’s EUROs, and it was deserved. A sea of orange filled the Stadion Galgenwaard as a crowd of over 21,000 were treated to a high intensity and entertaining matchup between two teams considered to be dark horses for the tournament. 

It was a 66th minute goal from Liverpool’s Shanice van de Sanden that separated the two sides, as she met a Lieke Martens cross to head home and send the home crowd into wild celebrations. It was nothing more than what the home side deserved having dominated the encounter for large periods, and stifling Norway’s much hyped up attacking threat. 

Norway coach Martin Sjogren was not impressed with his side’s performance and outlined a need to work on their attacking play. 

“We played a good Holland today, and they won the game fairly. We had problems in our attacking game, we didn’t really keep hold of the ball, which makes it hard to defend. We have to improve our attacking game, that was the main problem today. There will be quite a lot of focus on the attacking game.”

For the Netherlands, this was the perfect start. Having failed to even register a goal at the last EUROs in Sweden, the win will provide much optimism to fans of the Dutch, who not only turned out in their thousands at the game, but were also highly visible at the fan zone setup in the town center. 

{MORE EUROS: Point-by-point storylines | Netherlands, Denmark win openers}

Winger Lieke Martens, who last week made a high profile move to FC Barcelona, was voted player of the match and was a constant thorn in the Norway defense. She was naturally delighted at the final whistle but admitted her side could have won by more. 

“The way we fought as a team and the amount of chances we had, we maybe should have had more goals, but it is a great start for us,” she said. “We played a good game and our technique was crucial. I had no doubts over the pass to Shanice van de Sanden, and the way she scored was amazing.” 

The roar when that goal from Van de Sanden went in was almost deafening, with the crowd very much dominated by the home support. For Martens, the moment and the atmosphere were special. 

“It was amazing. When we came here everyone was in orange. People were screaming for us and gave us a lot of energyI hope people will do that for the next game as it will help us a lot.” 

The Netherlands will now host Denmark, who won their opening game 1-0 over Belgium thanks to an early goal from Sanne Troelsgaard, in Rotterdam on Thursday. As for Norway and Belgium, they will know that defeat in their game will almost certainly see them eliminated from the tournament, so the pressure is now on to gain their first points of the competition. They will face each other in Breda. 

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