KATIE MISHNER /AIPS in DOETINCHEM*: The most aggressive and bizarre match of UEFA Women’s EURO 2017 saw Switzerland recover from a goal down to defeat Iceland 2-1 after a 101-minute- long battle in the Stadion De Vijverberg.
Most players left the pitch with bruises and bandages while Swiss keeper Gaëlle Thalmann was allowed to continue despite having stitches inserted in a second-half head wound.
Swiss medical officials shrugged off the incident after the game but it should inevitably raise concerns yet again about football’s reaction to head injuries.
The other Group C game saw highly-rated France held 1-1 by Austria in Utrecht.
In Doetinchem the mayhem began after only six minutes when Swiss skipper Lara Dickenmann was yellow-carded by Russian referee Anastasia Pustovoitova for a cynical boot into the stomach of Dagny Brynjarsdóttir.
The temperature of the match was already high and that high-leg foul was just the beginning.
The first half saw 18 fouls with Iceland guiltier of aggression than Switzerland. Eventually, this led to a yellow card for Gunnhildur Jónsdottir as she lifted Noelle Maritz, with a late challenge.
A moment of positivity graced an otherwise heated game in 33rd minute. Brynjarsdóttir launched an attractive ball past three Swiss defenders for Fanndis Fridriksdóttir to strike the ball confidently into the back of the net to lift the already buoyant Icelandic fans.
Switzerland’s creativity, through Vannessa Bernauer and Ramona Bachmann, were testing the Icelandic waters and defensive cracks began to show.
Less than 10 minutes after Stelpurnar okkar – the Icelandic women’s national team – took the lead Dickenmann grabbed the equaliser, converting Bachmann’s low cross.
When the game restarted, the first half scraps looked tame. The game’s competitive and aggressive edge was turning into something much more malicious.
Switzerland took the lead seven minutes into the second half through a powerful Bachmann header as the match disintegrated further.
Iceland’s captain, Sarah Bjork Gunnarsdøttir, was the first victim to fall victim to the rising hostility as a clattering of knees left the Wolfsburg player in a heap. She was able to play on after treatment but one scare was followed by another, more severe.
Halibera Gisladottir’s cross drew four players into one aerial collision which left Thalmann prone on the pitch as doctors sprinted to nurse the Swiss keeper.
A head gash was sewn up on the pitch, her head was heavily bandaged. Treatment in the goalmouth lasted 10 minutes before she was helped to her feet and dinned a fresh jersey to replace the bloodied original.
Swiss federation officials described the injury as “a bleeding cut and therefore not a serious injury” to explain why Thalmann was permitted to play on.
Iceland continued to pile on the pressure by using Agla Maria Albertsdottir at the tip of the attack but frustration had set in, and the final ball was not coherent. The frantic and bizarre nature of the match was heightened as 11 minutes of injury time were announced.
When the whistle was blown, despite the result, there was a sense of relief in the stadium.
Extra time proved even more ill-tempered with tussles breaking out all over the field amid ongoing concern about the severity of Thalmann’s injury before Pustovoitova’s long-awaited final whistle.
** AIPS is the international sports journalists’ association with 10,000 members worldwide and which is currently running a Young Reporters project in the Netherlands with the cooperation and support of European federation UEFA. More information at www.AIPSmedia.com