NETHERLANDS 0-1 ICELAND
Danny Blind’s new look Netherlands faced Lars Lagerback and Heimir Hallgrimsson’s Iceland in tonight’s European Championship qualifying encounter at the Amsterdam ArenA. It was a game that saw new coach Blind take to the Holland hot seat for the first time, since the resignation of Guus Hiddink.
Both teams were looking forward to the evening’s encounter but Arjen Robben was feeling the heat the most stating that his side were in a “delicate situation” going into the match. Iceland went into the match knowing a win tonight and win against Kazakhstan on Sunday would clinch them qualification for the first time ever. As for the Netherlands they knew a defeat tonight would make it very difficult for them to secure qualification.
The Dutch roar echoed across the city of Amsterdam as the teams took to the field although, there was however tension in the air knowing that it would be worrying times for the Dutch if they failed to win tonight.
The game kicked off and it was the visitors who started the match brightly though on five minutes, an open goal miss by Bodvarsson from five yards out was the best chance for Iceland. A delightful cross by Gudmundsson. It would have been a well-deserved lead for the visitors but ended with a head in the hands instead moment for the 3,000 travelling supporters.
After eight minutes it was the Netherlands’ time to turn the screw with a fine shot from Robben on the right from 25 yards, that was equally matched by the on-rushing NEC Nijmegen stopper Halldorsson in goal for Iceland.
On 11 minutes, a foul by Stefan De Vrij invited a decent delivery from by Gylfi Sigurdson, which was comfortably caught by Jasper Cillessen in the Dutch goal. Shortly after a cross from Wesley Sneijder found Robben who could only see his tame header deflected out for a Netherlands corner.
Robben found Sneijder after quarter of an hour, whose shot from 20 yards deflected out for a corner to the hosts. It was a decent spell by the Netherlands and a nice piece of trickery from Manchester United’s Memphis Depay helped to find Robben who was deliberately fouled by Arnason. The freekick was taken but Robben could only see his speculative effort deflect of Davy Klaassen and go out for a goal kick to the away team.
There were worrying signs for the Netherlands on 25 minutes when Robben was stood holding his groin and had to be replaced by PSV winger Luciano Narsingh. The Bayern Munich winger had only just returned after four weeks out on the sidelines. Not something manager Blind would have hoped for.
On 27 minutes, a great delivery from the right by Depay picked out Hunterlaar, whose effort looked to have scraped the far hand post. It looked like it could be a long evening for the Netherlands.
It did not get any better shortly after, Bruno Martins Indi was handed a straight red card after a foul on Kolbeinn Sigthorsson but replays show that Martins Indi had acted unprofessionally. Three minutes later, lone striker Klass-Jan Huntelaar was replaced by PSV defender Jeffrey Bruma, a move that did not go down well with the home fans. With half time approaching, there was one last chance for Wesley Sneijder who could only see his 30-yard pile driver, fall into the arms of Halldorsson.
The second half began and on 49 minutes Iceland were awarded a penalty after a rash tackle by Gregory Van Der Wiel on Bjarnason, which was well worthy of a yellow card. The penalty was dispatched confidently by Sigurdsson, only for Cillessen to get a hand on it. A head in the hands moment from Robben as he watched on from the bench. The emotions were showing with Cillessen clearly frustrated with himself for not keeping it out. The Netherlands 37 game-winning streak at home was coming to an end.
The visitors nearly added a second on 53 minutes when Johann Berg Gudmundsson fired a powerful shot onto the post, no chance for Cillessen. Ten minutes later, Narsingh found Sneijder, and his 20-yard low shot found the gloves of Halldorson. Newcastle United’s new signing Georginio Wijnaldum had a similar effort shortly after, which was equally matched by the Iceland shot stopper. It was turning into a real frustrating evening for the Netherlands.
On 68 minutes, Davy Klaassen, found Narsingh only for him blaze wide from ten yards wide right. Mid-way through the second-half, Bjarnason picked out veteran, Eidur Gudjohnson who also found Gudmundsson only to fire over from six yards out, a glorious chance wasted for the visitors to take a two-goal lead.
With only ten minutes remaining on the clock, Blind’s men were hoping to grab at least a point; Narsingh found Wijnaldum on the right who shot from eighteen yards was a conformable save and with news coming in that the Czech Republic were beating Kazakhstan in one of the other fixtures in the group, it was looking that little bit more desperate for the Netherlands.
There was one last chance for a Netherlands equaliser as Klaassen fired a cross into the Iceland box, but the cross was well defender by Skulason as Depay was ready to pounce.
The full time whistle was blown, and boos bellowed around the Amsterdam ArenA.
For the first time, 24 countries will contest the European Championship. As the host nation, France claim an automatic spot with the other 23 entrants determined by the ongoing qualifiers. The nine group winners along with nine group runners-up and the best third-placed side go directly through to the finals with the eight remaining third-placed teams will face off in two legged play-offs to determine the last four qualifiers. This looks to be the Dutch’s most realistic way of gaining qualification, however, Turkey stand in their way as they are desperate themselves to clinch the third spot, and Blind must take his men to Konya on Sunday evening to face them, in what now seems a vital game for the Oranje.
Netherlands: Cillessen; Van der Wiel, De Vrij, Martins Indi, Blind; Sneijder, Wijnaldum (Promes 80), Klaassen; Depay, Robben (Narsingh 31), Huntelaar (Bruma 40).
BOOKINGS: Van der Wiel 50, Sneijder 90+3.
SENT OFF: Martins Indi 33.
Iceland: Halldórsson; Saevarsson, Sigurdsson, Árnason, Skúlason; Bjarnason, Sigurdsson, Bödvarsson (Finnbogason 78), Gunnarsson (Skulason 87); Gudmundsson, Sigthorsson (Gudjohnsen 64).
GOALS: Sigurdsson 51P.
BOOKINGS: Sigthorsson 33, Arnason 58, Saevarsson 80.
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