Watch: Barcelona's Lieke Martens' improvised nutmeg helps the Netherlands to 2-1 World Cup win over Japan

Tue, Jun 25 2019

Martens in action during the Netherlands' 2-0 win over the Republic of Ireland in qualifying. Credit: Al Robinson (ETPhotos)

A wonderful improvised finish from Lieke Martens and a late penalty from the Barcelona star Lieke Martens saw European champions the Netherlands past Japan to book a World Cup quarter-final.

The 2017 European Championships player of the tournament and world player of the year has had a quite games by her standards but she lit up the tie in Rennes early on with a slick backheeled finish.

The striker ran unspotted to the near post to meet Sherida Spitse’s low corner with a deft flick that nutmegged Yuika Sugasawa on its way to creeping inside the far stick.

The European champions, who came second behind Norway in Ireland’s qualifying group, won maximum points from their three group games and arrived favourites against a declining Japan side.

And they wasted little time in imposing their game on the 2015 World Cup finalists and were good value for their slender lead, however Japan have come into the game since falling behind.

Japan were denied a near-instant equaliser by the post as Sugasawa ran through on goal and placed her shot just on the wrong side of the woodwork.

And the equaliser came two minutes before the break as a brilliant turn and through-ball from Mana Iwabuchi set up Yui Hasegawa to blast into the roof of the net.

The 2011 champions dominated the second half and forced Sari Van Veenendaal into a string of fine saves and, while Hina Sugita did beat the keeper, her shot cannoned back off the bar.

It was the Dutch who would prevail, however, as Suki Kumagai was deemed to have handled Vivienne Miedema's shot in the final minute, and Martens stepped up to convert her second of the game.