Michael O’Neill says he is ‘devastated’ as Northern Ireland slumped to a 3-1 defeat to the Netherlands after conceding three goals in the last 10 minutes.
The visitors had defended valiantly for the vast majority of the game, and took a shock lead against the run of play after 75 minutes when Josh Magennis rose above Matthijs de Ligt to head home and send Northern Ireland fans into ecstasy.
Memphis Depay equalised for the Netherlands just five minutes later, but their hearts were broken when Luuk de Jong scrambled home in injury time to give the hosts the lead, before Depay scored his second to seal the three points.
O’Neill said that he was proud of his team’s performance, but was gutted to not be returning home with at least a point.
“We’re devastated by the nature of the defeat,” O’Neill told Sky Sports. “I thought we did everything we could to take the lead, and although we were disappointed to concede the equaliser I thought hopefully we can get out with a point.
“But the two goals in injury time were very cruel. It was a very harsh result for us.”
Northern Ireland will now realistically have to win their home match with Netherlands and away game at Germany in November if they are to qualify for Euro 2020, and O’Neill is all too aware of the magnitude of the challenge ahead.
“We have to win the two games, it’s as simple as that,” he added. “The third goal was disappointing because it makes the head-to-head with Holland that much more difficult but the team can be very proud of themselves.
“We’re playing against a team of world-class players and we’ve got players who are in League One, so we probably need a bit of perspective.”
Magennis: Bitter pill to swallow
Goalscorer Magennis said his side can take positives from both tonight’s defeat and the 2-0 loss to Germany last month despite not managing to pick up a result in either match.
“It’s very, very disappointing for our raw emotions that we got beat but we’ll take massive positives from not just this game but the last two games,” he said.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow, we frustrated them at times but to come away with nothing is massively disappointing. When I scored I was just thinking ‘happy days’. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to hang on.
“We need to get our heads down now. We’ve done phenomenal work off the ball and we tried to play our best on the ball. Unfortunately for us when they got the chances they managed to take them.”