June 25, 2019 / 9:19 PM / a month ago

Martens sends Netherlands through to maiden quarter-finals

RENNES, France (Reuters) - The Netherlands reached the women’s World Cup quarter-finals for the first time when Lieke Martens’ last-gasp penalty earned them a 2-1 victory against Japan on Tuesday.

Soccer Football - Women's World Cup - Round of 16 - Netherlands v Japan - Roazhon Park, Rennes, France - June 25, 2019 Netherlands' Lieke Martens scores their second goal from the penalty spot REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Martens put the Dutch in front after 17 minutes, only for Yui Hasegawa to level on the stroke of halftime, but the forward sent the European champions through with a spot kick in the last minute.

Japan, who hit the woodwork twice, dominated the second half but lacked the finishing touch.

The Netherlands, taking part in only their second women’s World Cup, will play Italy in Valenciennes on Saturday after the Azzurre beat China 2-0 earlier on Tuesday.

“We were standing in the circle after the match and we were so happy, yelling at each other,” said Netherlands coach Sarina Wiegman.

“We were saying ‘let’s continue writing history!’ For the first time we got to this stage at the World Cup. All the players then used this mantra.

“We will enjoy this victory and only tomorrow we will start thinking about Italy.”

It was a major setback for Japan, who had won the 2011 World Cup and reached the final of the previous edition.

“We knew it was going to be difficult. We played really calmly but we needed to be more clinical,” said Japan coach Asako Takakura.

“Towards the end of the match, in the second half, we created chances and it was unfortunate that we could not convert them. I’m really frustrated for the girls.”

The Oranje dominated early on with Vivianne Miedema’s shot hitting the post and they were rewarded in the 17th minute when Martens back-heeled a corner into the net to open the scoring.

Japan, however, had their chances with Yuika Sugasawa racing through only to see her curled shot crash against the post.

They deservedly equalized two minutes before the interval as Hasegawa scored with a cool finish after being superbly played through by Mana Iwabuchi.

The pace dropped after the break, with the Netherlands controlling the match without putting Japan under the cosh.

Slideshow (12 Images)

Japan only mustered half chances until the 79th minute, when Hina Sugita’s rising shot hit the crossbar just before Sari van Veenendaal was forced to save at full-stretch to deny Yuka Momiki.

The game eventually went the Netherlands’ way when Saki Kumagai handled the ball in the area and Martens converted the resulting penalty.

The Netherlands’ victory ensured that seven of the eight quarter-finalists were European.

Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis

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