Netherlands held by Sweden at start of Euros title defense

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Portugal’s Diana Gomes, left, challenges for the ball with Switzerland’s Rahel Kiwic during the Women’s Euro 2022 football match between Portugal and Switzerland at Leigh Sports Village in Wigan & Leigh, England on Saturday July 9, 2022 (AP Photo/Dave Thompson)

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With thousands of visiting fans to impress, the Netherlands left coach Mark Parsons disappointed after conceding against Sweden early in the Women’s European Championship title defence.

It took Jill Roord’s 52nd-minute strike to cancel out Jonna Andersson’s own – only the third in 51 appearances for the Swedish winger – to salvage a 1-1 draw for the Netherlands in Group C on Saturday .

“It was tough, but we had some good times when we played possession football,” Parsons said. “It wasn’t enough, the spaces were big, so Viv (Miedema) and others had to do too many errands. I was quite disappointed with the goal.

Improvement will be needed soon with a meeting on Wednesday with Portugal, who recovered from a five-minute brace against Switzerland before coming back in the second half to draw 2-2.

The Dutch will assess the injuries that disrupted the clash with Sweden, with goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal and defender Aniek Nouwen sent off.

Van Veenendaal crushed defenders Stefanie van der Gragt and Lynn Wilms while defending a free kick. The whistle ended Sweden’s ongoing attack with concerns over Van der Gragt in particular. Van Veenendaal received attention afterwards and was sent off about 10 minutes later.

Lieke Martens and Roord failed to threaten with long-range efforts for the Netherlands before Sweden took the lead when Kosovare Asllani beat Nouwen and his low cross was finished off by Andersson.

Lina Hurtig headed Andersson’s cross away under pressure from Nouwen, who was injured in the process and replaced by Marisa Olislagers.

Sweden missed chances to extend their lead before Roord scored eight goals in as many international appearances.

Vivianne Miedem was the creator of the best chance for a Dutch winner, feeding on former Arsenal team-mate Roord whose hesitation allowed Magdalena Eriksson to make a life-saving tackle.

The crowd at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane of 21,342 was the largest for a European Women’s Championship match not involving a host country.

There were 5,902 fans at the stadium in the town of Leigh in north-west England, where Portugal drew with Switzerland.

Portugal’s recovery was initiated in the 58th minute by Diana Gomes, who grabbed the rebound after her initial header from a corner was saved by goalkeeper Gaëlle Thalmann.

The equalizer was seized in the 65th minute by Jéssica Silva meeting a cross from Tatiana Pinto, ensuring that the first Swiss goals from Coumba Sow and Rahel Kiwic were wiped out.

“This is Portugal – a Portugal with soul, fighting spirit,” Silva said. “The bravery shown was fantastic but unfortunately we couldn’t score more.”

Portugal coach Francisco Neto was delighted with the maturity shown by his players who secured a place in the 16-team tournament only after Russia were banned for invading Ukraine.

“Today was proof of our growth as a team,” Neto said. “Maybe a few years ago we would have panicked and conceded more goals and that didn’t happen today. Even losing 2-0 the team stayed calm, tried to reorganized, communicated and grew, which is why we were competitive until the end.

Portugal also play the Netherlands in Leigh on Wednesday.

“If we play like we did in the second half, of course we can compete with them,” Silva said. “In the first minutes we were a little too anxious but we reacted well, we showed that we are a super competitive Portugal that can match any team.

Group D begins on Sunday when France take on Italy in Rotherham and Belgium take on Iceland in Manchester.

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