An own goal from Denmark’s Daniel Agger and a late strike by Dirk Kuyt sealed a deserved 2-0 victory for the Netherlands against Denmark at Johannesburg’s Soccer City Stadium in the first scheduled match of day four.
Dutch coach Van Marwijk’s inclusion of Arjen Robben in the squad produced a surprise for football fans all over the world. However, the Bayern Munich talisman was not called on the pitch as the Dutchmen, led by a lively Wesley Sneijder, dominated the proceedings throughout the game.
Netherlands started with an attacking 4-2-3-1 formation and drew first blood in attack at the sixth minute, when Van der Vaart was brought down from behind by Kjaer. Sneijder’s freekick was a disappointment though, as it sailed well over the bar, high and wide. At the tenth minute, Kuyt decided to test Danish goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen with a long range effort, which looked pretty tame and harmless, but Sorensen fumbled before recovering the ball at the second attempt. Meanwhile, Denmark conjured up their first attack of the match whem Thomas Enevoldsen’s highly ambitious long-range scorcher went high and over the crossbar. With fifteen minutes left in the first half, Nicklas Bendtner found space in the box but headed wastefully wide of near post from just six yards out.
Soon after, Thomas Kahlenberg came up with the closest effort of the half, but Dutch keeper Maarten Stekelenburg was equal to the task, producing an excellent save to deny Kahlenberg’s near-perfect left footed sizzler. It was the last meaningful attack in the first half that saw Netherlands keen to hold onto the possession and wait for the opportunity, while Denmark looked to rely more on quick counter-attacks.
Second half started in the worst possible way for Denmark. A bizarre situation saw Danish defender Simon Poulsen inexplicably put a Van Persie cross back into his own net, after the ball kissed Daniel Agger’s back before crossing the goal-line, leaving Sorensen visibly shocked and stranded.
Robin Van Persie got an opportunity to double the lead seven minutes later, courtesy a faulty clearance from Simon Kjaer. However, Sorensen was alert and he rushed off his line to prevent the dangerous Van Persie to get in a decent shot. Ultimately, Van Persie did put the ball into back of the net on the hour mark, but the referee had already blown the whistle for offside.
Rafael Van der Vaart was substituted three quarters into the game, and the inclusion of Eljero Elia brought new attacking dimension for the Dutch side from the wide left wing. The Hamburg starlet dodged two defenders and laid out a tempting cross across the Danish box which went begging on seventy minutes.
Kuyt’s second sealed the win!
The Oranjes then ensured their 20-match unbeaten run with just five minutes remaining. After a delightful through ball by Sneijder, Elia’s deflected shot off Sorensen’s arm was tapped in by Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt from close range. Netherlands came close to increasing their lead through Ibrahim Afellay with just a minute to go, but a fabulous goal-line save from Cristian Poulsen saved further blushes for the Danish side.
TheHardTackle’s Player of the Match: Eljero Elia (Netherlands)
Just about 25 minutes on the pitch to secure the top of the match billing speaks volume about the winger’s impact on the match. He was a livewire on the pitch – made some brilliant solo runs through the left wing and showed glimpses of dribbling trickery that would have made Cristiano Ronaldo proud. Assisted in Netherland’s second goal by setting the cross for Kuyt.
TheHardTackle’s Referee Report Card:
Stephane Lannoy (FRA) – Grade: B
The Frenchman had a decent game. He controlled the tempo of the match with strong command and did not have any tough decision to make. However, frequent whistle blowing and long on-field talks with the players’ hampered the free flowing rhythm of the match.
NETHERLANDS 2-0 DENMARK
Venue: Soccer City, Johannesburg
Netherlands Line-up: Stekelenburg, Van der Wiel, Heitinga, Mathijsen, Van Bronckhorst; Van Bommel, De Jong (De Zeeuw ’88); Kuyt, Sneijder, Van der Vaart (Elia ’67); Van Persie (Afellay ’77)
Caution: Van Persie, De Jong
Scorers: Kuyt (’85)
Denmark Line-up: Sorensen; L. Jacobsen, Kjaer, Agger, S. Poulsen; Kahlenberg (Eriksen ’73), C. Poulsen, Enevoldsen (Gronkjaer ’56); Rommedahl, Bendtner (Beckmann ’62), Jorgensen
Caution: Simon Kjaer
Scorers: Danniel Agger (’46) (Own Goal)