Holland won 2-0 in this tight battle against a resilient Denmark side thanks to a little help from unfortunate Danish defender Simon Poulsen.
The much-fancied Dutch were without the injured Arjen Robben, but still had an array of attacking talent on show, with much expected of Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder in particular. In truth, Holland never really got going in the first half as they struggled to find a cutting edge against a well organised Danish defence.
It was telling that combative midfielders Nigel de Jong and Mark van Bommel were far more prominent throughout than the side’s creative players. The game was high on physicality but low on quality, with Nicklas Bendtner’s headed miss from Dennis Rommedahl’s right wing cross the only chance of note in the first 45 minutes.
With a game this low on creativity, it was perhaps fitting that the first goal came from a defensive error rather than a piece of genius. The goal in question came from a bizarre mistake in the first minute of the second half.
Van Persie beat Sorensen to de Jong’s through ball down Holland’s left, but found himself at too tight an angle to shoot from. After beating an onrushing defender, Van Persie crossed into the box, but could only find the head of Poulsen. The defender completely miscued his header, and rather than clearing the ball, he sent it back towards his own goal. Poulsen could only look on in horror as the ball deflected off the back of Daniel Agger and into the Danish net.
The goal settled Holland and they began to play with the increased confidence and freedom that a goal can bring. They were also helped by the introduction of young winger Eljero Elia, who made a real impact during his 25 minute spell. Elia was a continual threat; it was his shot which hit the post and provided Dirk Kuyt with a simple tap in as he reacted quickest to the rebound.
Holland were in full flow now; Sneijder’s deflected shot had caught the top of the bar not long before the goal, while substitute Ibrahim Afellay saw his prodded volley cleared off the line by a fantastic Simon Poulsen clearance.
The final half hour showed why the Dutch are so highly rated, and with flying winger Arjen Robben nearing full fitness and returning to the side, there is much to be positive about. The thought of Elia and Robben in full flight is one that will no doubt worry many an opposing full-back.
Holland should qualify comfortably and will look to build momentum throughout the competition, while Denmark, with their toughest game out of the way, are far from finished and are capable of taking points from both Cameroon and Japan.
Man of the Match: Eljero Elia. The winger was only on the pitch for 25 minutes, but only Danish defender Simon Poulsen made a more telling contribution to the Dutch victory. Elia caused massive problems with his pace and burst through on goal to hit the post with the shot which led to Holland’s second goal. Elia was a constant threat and must surely be in contention for a starting place in the next game.
Moment of the Match: Simon Poulsen’s calamitous header. Poulsen’s attempted clearance was a comedy moment with even the defender himself only able to smile in disbelief at what had just happened. Sadly for Poulsen and Denmark, the goal gave Holland control of the game and cost the Danes a potential point.
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