Two goals from Mario Gomez within the first 38 minutes of a crucial group B match at the Metalist Stadium, Kharkiv proved too much for an unusually non-clinical Dutch side.
The match was surrounded with high anticipation seeing the worlds 3rd ranked team facing the 4th adding the fact that there had never been a competitive game without a goal between the nations. As expected the game didn’t lack in goals, ending 2-1 on the night, with a late Robin Van Persie strike finding its way past Manuel Neuer.
The inclusion of seven Bayern Munich players within the German starting line up has proved clinical for Joachim Loew’s side as they are favourites to progress into the quarter finals with 6 points out of a possible 6, topping the group. The heartbreak of the loss in the Champions League final seems to be put aside, as Philipp Lahm and co continue to show why many have topped Germany to be lifting the trophy on the 1st of July in Kiev. Bastian Schweinsteiger was the pick of the bunch, as ‘The Brain’, threaded two immaculate passes through to Gomez for his 2nd and 3rd goals of the tournament.
As in their first group game against Denmark, the Netherlands could have been two or three up within the first 15 minutes as Robin Van Persie uncharacteristically missed two good chances. The first saw Manuel Neuer thankfully receive a volley straight into his grasp, as Van Persie half heartedly connected with an exquisite Mark Van Bommel ball over the top of the German back-line. The second was dragged wide with a right footed effort that followed Arjen Robben’s through ball. As in game week one the Dutch were punished for their mistakes, when in the 24th minute Thomas Muller’s ball found Schweinsteiger, who played in Mario Gomez to finish with a right footed strike past Maarten Stekelenburg’s outstretched left leg. Gomez’s second came just fourteen minutes later when Schweinsteiger received the ball from the ever-impressive Ozil, laying it off first time into Gomez’s path who struck the Tango12 into the upper left side netting of the goal.
Van Marwijk reacted to the first half performance, bringing on Tottenham Hotspur’s Rafael Van der Vaart and Schalke’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for the anonymous Ibrahim Afellay and the tiring Van Bommel. Van der Vaart, who impressed when brought on against Denmark, and Huntelaar, with 48 goals for Schalke this season, were met by the ever resolute German defence. However the Dutch provided an interesting last half hour when Sneijder went close twice, the first a cleanly struck shot from range which swept past Neuer’s left hand post and the second blocked by Jerome Boateng. Van Persie also came close after connecting with Arjen Robben’s cross, bringing a fine save out of Manuel Neuer diving down to his right hand side. Van Persie eventually found the net, when in the 73rd minute the Arsenal striker cleanly struck the ball with a right footed effort between Holger Badstuber’s legs and into the bottom right corner of the goal.
The late goal hinted at a spirited finish to the match by the Dutch, but the ever robust Germans held out to collect all three points. Gomez, Ozil, Schweinsteiger, Lahm and Mats Hummels all impressed and if the Germans keep progressing to the latter stages Loew will be relying on the consistency of his key players to see the nation collect its 4thEuropean Football Championship trophy.
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