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Scotland 1 (Little pen 49) Holland 2 (Martens 10, Melis pen 23)
Scotland's hopes of reaching next summer's FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada hang in the balance after losing 2-1 to the Netherlands at Tynecastle.
First half goals from Lieke Martins and Manon Melis had propelled the visitors into a two-goal lead, but a penalty from Kim Little at the start of the second half triggered a determined comeback. The Dutch, however, weathered the storm, and will have the advantage going into Thursday's second leg in Rotterdam.
Anna Signeul made one change to the side that lost 2-0 away to Sweden last month, with Lisa Evans replacing Caroline Weir in the team following a spell out through injury.
Scotland were looking for a positive result to take to Rotterdam for the second leg on Thursday, but they got off to the worst possible start after just ten minutes. A long range effort from Vivianne Miedema produced a fine save from Gemma Fay, but she could only parry to Lieke Martens, who took full advantage to give the Dutch a lead.
The Netherlands, buoyed by a brilliant start, nearly doubled their advantage moments later. Ifeoma Dieke's clearance landed at Manon Melis, but the Göteborg player's effort from the edge of the box rocketed over the bar.
Scotland's task became even tougher when the visitors scored a second after 23 minutes. A spot of pinball in the Scotland penalty area eventually ended with the ball landing at the feet of Miedema, who was then brought down by Frankie Brown. Ukrainan referee Kateryna Monzul had no choice but to award a penalty, which Melis duly converted.
Anna Signeul was forced into a change after 25 minutes as Hayley Lauder, who had only just passed a fitness test earlier in the week, was forced off through injury.
As the half went on Scotland began to find their feet in the match, and had their first effort on goal from Jane Ross after 30 minutes. A storming run from Rachel Corsie from midfield led to the Vittsjo striker finding space for the first time in the match, but her curling effort was comfortably held by Loes Geurts.
For all of Scotland's improvement in play towards the end of the half, the Dutch Head Coach may have felt that his side should have been 3-0 up going into the interval. Manon Melis was the first to respond to a through ball and, bar another fine save from Fay, would have all but put the tie to bed.
In the opening stages of the second half, Scotland were given a lifeline. A handball from Stefanie Van der Gragt inside the penalty box gave Little the opportunity to get one back for Scotland from 12 yards. The midfielder was as clinical as ever, slotting the ball into the bottom left hand corner past Geurts.
The early goal filled the Scotland team with belief putting the Dutch on the back foot. A deflected shot from Emma Mitchell resulted in a corner on the hour mark, with Little's delivery finding Jenny Beattie. The Montpellier defender rose above all in the box, but her header went just wide.
Beattie came close once again ten minutes, once more from a set piece. Excellent work on the right wing from Ross forced a foul from Siri Worm. The resulting delivery from Evans found Beattie perfectly in the box. Beattie's header looked destined for the bottom corner, but Geurts produced an incredible one handed save to her right to prevent the equaliser.
Scotland's performance improved dramatically in the second half, but the Dutch were still proving to be dangerous on the counter attack. On 75 minutes a delicately chipped through ball from Anouk Dekker found Martens, but the Göteborg striker pulled her volley just wide.
With moments to go in the match, the Netherlands nearly landed a deadly blow on the counter attack. Pressing for an equaliser at a corner, Melis broke away and showed great pace and energy to find herself one-on-one with Fay. Her strike looked to be trickling into the goal, but it bounced off the post, allowing Mitchell to clear the ball to safety.
Scotland now travel to Rotterdam, knowing they must score at least twice to book their place in the play-off final against either Italy or Ukraine. Italy have the advantage in the other semi-final, after defeating Ukraine 2-1 in Rieti.
Scotland: Gemma Fay, Frankie Brown, Jennifer Beattie, Ifeoma Dieke, Rachel Corsie, Joanne Love, Hayley Lauder (sub Emma Mitchell 24mins), Kim Little, Lisa Evans (sub Caroline Weir 71mins), Leanne Crichton (sub Christie Murray 89mins), Jane Ross. Subs not used: Shannon Lynn, Eilish McSorley, Megan Sneddon, Nicola Docherty.
Holland: Lois Geurts, Desiree van Lunteren, Stephanie van der Gragt, Mandy van den Berg, Siri Worm, Anouk Dekker, Manon Melis, Sherida Spitse, Vivianne Miedema, Danielle van de Donk, Lieke Martens. Subs not used: Sari van Veenendaal, Dyanne Bito, Anouk Hoogendijk, Tessel Middag, Kirsten van de Ven, Eshly Bakker, Claudia van den Heiligenberg.
(Report by www.scottishfa.co.uk)
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