Holders the Netherlands needed a second half fightback to avoid a losing start to their Euro 2022 defence as Jill Roord’s strike salvaged a 1-1 draw with Sweden in Sheffield.
Sweden were looking to exact revenge for their World Cup semi-final exit to the Dutch three years ago and took a deserved led at half-time through Jonna Andersson’s calm finish.
The Netherlands rallied thanks to Roord’s finish early in the second half, but neither side could find a winner in front of another record crowd for a group stage match not involving the host nation at a women’s European Championship of 21,342.
A match hyped as one of the biggest clashes of the group stages, got off to a slow start as Sweden suffocated the supply line to the Netherlands’ star strike force of Vivianne Miedema and Lieke Mertens.
The Dutch were also hit by the loss of goalkeeper and captain Sari Van Veenendaal to injury early, but her understudy Daphne Van Domselaar shone on just her second international appearance.
At second in the world, Sweden are the highest ranked team in the tournament and showed why in the first 45 minutes.
Kosovare Asllani fired into the side-netting and Barcelona forward Firdolina Rolfo nearly caught out Van Domselaar with a spectacular attempt from halfway that drifted just over.
Sweden’s pressure was finally rewarded on 35 minutes when Asllani’s trickery opened up the Dutch defence and her cross picked out Andersson at the back post to coolly slot home.
Netherlands’ boss Mark Parsons has been criticised for failing to match the standards set by Sarina Wiegman, since she departed her homeland to take charge of England.
However, Parsons made an impact with his half-time team talk as the holders came out with far more aggression to start the second half and got their reward.
Miedema showed just a glimpse of her ability to change the game in an instant as a dummy allowed her to charge down the left wing.
The Arsenal striker’s pass was deflected by a Swedish defender but only into the path of Roord, who fired into the bottom corner on the turn.
Miedema has been heralded as both the best number nine and 10 in the women’s game and it was his creativity that nearly won the game for the Netherlands.
She picked out Roord’s late run into the box, but Chelsea defender Magdalena Eriksson’s perfectly timed challenge preserved Sweden’s unbeaten run in open play stretching back to March 2020 intact.
At the other end Rolfo forced Van Domselaar into a flying save as stoppage time loomed, but both sides had to settle for a point.
In the other game in Group C, Portugal fought back from conceding twice in the first five minutes to snatch a 2-2 draw against Switzerland in Leigh.
Sweden and the Netherlands remain strong favourites to make the knockout stages, but the Swiss looked set to give themselves a shot with a blistering start as Coumba Sow fired in a fine strike before Rahel Kiwic headed in from a free-kick.
Portugal would not even have qualified had it not been for Russia’s expulsion due to the invasion of Ukraine.
But they proved they are not just in England to make up the numbers by scoring twice in seven second half minutes to take a point.
Diana Gomes bundled the ball in on the hour mark and Jessica Silva provided a deft touch to Tatiana Pinto’s cross to level.
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