Football

Netherlands powers past Denmark

Denmark's Daniel Agger, left, looks on as Netherlands' Dirk Kuyt celebrates after Denmark scored an own goal during the World Cup match between the Netherlands and Denmark at Soccer City in Johannesburg.

Denmark's Daniel Agger, left, looks on as Netherlands' Dirk Kuyt celebrates after Denmark scored an own goal during the World Cup match between the Netherlands and Denmark at Soccer City in Johannesburg.  

The Netherlands kicked-off their World Cup campaign in Group E with victory over Denmark but they needed help from some calamitous Danish defending.

A comedy own goal gifted the Dutch the lead on 46 minutes when Simon Poulsen headed a clearance against his own defensive teammate Daniel Agger and past Thomas Sorensen.

Bert Van Marwijks Dutch side came into tournament on a record unbeaten run of 19 games and named a strong side with only Arjen Robben missing and with captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst earning his 100th cap.

Against a Dutch side who had not lost their opening match at a finals since 1938 Danish boss Morten Olsen erred on the side of caution naming Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner as a lone striker.

The Dutch threatened first when on six minutes Wesley Sneijder tried his luck from distance with a free-kick that did not trouble Thomas Sorensen in the Danish goal.

Thomas Enevoldsen then sent a long-range free-kick wide for the Danes before Sneijder set up Dirk Kuyt whose shot moved in the air leaving Sorensen scrambling to grab it at the second attempt.

On 20 minutes there was an early flash of some Dutch magic when after a slick passing move Robin van Persie released Rafael Van der Vaart who shot wide.

The Real Madrid man went close again moments later but on 27 minutes Denmark had their first chance with Dennis Rommedahl crossing from the right only for Bendtner to get his header all wrong and steer the chance wide.

Rommedahl found space down the right again on 35 minutes and this time elected to shoot forcing Maarten Stekelenburg to make his first real save of the game.

On 37 minutes Bendtner spun his marker and sent Thomas Kahlenberg through. The Wolfsburg midfielder’s shot was palmed away for a corner by the increasingly busy Stekelenburg.

Van Persie had his first chance on 43 minutes when he wriggled away from Daniel Agger but could only send his shot wide. The Netherlands were no longer dominating and they finished the half with Nigel de Jong going into the referee’s book for a wild challenge on Bendtner.

But the Dutch were given a huge helping hand just one minute into the second half when a Danish own goal put them one up. A long ball out of defence found Van Persie and his cross was headed by Poulsen into his own defensive teammate Agger and past Sorensen.

It should have been two moments later when Kuyt released Van Persie but he dallied too long on the ball and Sorensen made the save.

The Stoke City keeper made another fine stop moments later from a Van der Vaart effort as the Netherlands continued to dominate against a Danish side who took off Bendtner on 62 minutes.

Sorensen kept the Danes at bay again turning a Van Bommel shot away for a corner from, which Van Persie headed wide. He joined Bendtner on the sidelines when he was replaced by Ibrahim Afellay on 79 minutes.

There was no let-up in Dutch pressure and Sneijder, who was later named Man of the Match, shook the crossbar with a shot from distance before Kuyt added a second five minutes from time.

He scored from a rebound after Eljero Elia hit the post. And only a fantastic goal-line clearance from Christian Poulsen prevented a third.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 6:30:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/Netherlands-powers-past-Denmark/article16244262.ece

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