A MARVELLOUS match, but a case of so near and yet so far. England were within five minutes of a famous victory - one which would have taken them a large stride towards the World Cup finals - when Des Walker's renowned pace was found wanting for the first time in 52 appearances for his country. The consequent panic, and penalty, leaves qualifying Group Two more of a minefield than ever.
John Barnes' first international goal for three years and David Platt's 18th in 38 games held out the promise of a night to remember. It was a promise cruelly unfulfilled.
Both sides accepted that the draw was of much greater benefit to the Netherlands. Instead of continuing to contest the leadership of the group on level terms, England are a point adrift, with the Dutch breathing down their necks. The leaders, Norway, and Poland both won yesterday to confirm that the race has four runners, and England are left without the cushion they wanted against further setbacks in their two difficult away games, in Katowice (29 May) and Oslo (2 June).
Graham Taylor, seeking a fourth successive win in what was the 30th match of his managership, will remember it as the one that got away. If his team selection had been contentiously unorthodox, he got just about everything right, and the way in which Martin Keown's inexperience at left-back was ultimately exposed was cruel, indeed.
The poor man will feel he did too good a job on Ruud Gullit, whose withdrawal after 69 minutes left him with no one to mark.
Finding himself in no man's land. Keown signalled helplessly to the bench, then allowed himself to be sucked into midfield, where Aron Winter embarrassed him with the through ball which sent Marc Overmars scuttling away to win that point-saving penalty.
Double irony here. Overmars had only switched from left to right after Gullit's departure.
A deflating finish after such a marvellous start.
Taylor got all the patriotic fervour he had called for from the capacity crowd, and both 'Land of Hope and Glory' and 'God Save The Queen' were belted out with rare gusto.
Some things never change, and despite the appeals for good manners, the Dutch anthem was loudly booed.
Barnes will have listened to those jeers with apprehension, and wasted no time in sparing himself the same treatment. The tie was barely a minute old when Rob Witschge's foul on Paul Ince, 25 yards out, presented him with an inviting opportunity.
The free-kick was in much the same position from which Chris Waddle had stunned Sheffield United in their FA Cup semi-final, three weeks ago.
Anything Waddle can do, Barnes can do better? We have all come to doubt that of late, but the winger- turned-midfielder rewarded Taylor for his faith with a strike reminiscent of his halcyon years.
Paul Gascoigne made a decoy run over the ball, perhaps deceiving Ed de Goey in the Dutch goal. Deceived or not, De Goey was beaten to the wide when Barnes curled the kick, left- footed, into the goalkeeper's top left corner.
Gascoigne, untroubled by his pre- match injuries, punched a hole in the Dutch defence after 23 minutes with a strong thrust in the inside-left channel, but the attack seemed to have foundered when his one-two with Platt came to naught.
All was not lost. England deserved their good fortune, when the ball broke to Ferdinand, who will have been cursing his luck when a raking shot, from right to left, bounced out off the post. The Dutch were certainly left cursing theirs when the predatory Platt reacted quicker than the rest to tuck away the rebound for his seventh goal of the qualifying series.
Yet they hit back hard, and to good effect. After 34 minutes, the tie was back in the balance, courtesy of a stunning example of the finishing for which Internazionale are paying Ajax pounds 7m.
Bergkamp found half a yard on Tony Adams, and that was all he needed to meet a lofted through-pass from Jan Wouters on the volley, and chip over the advancing Chris Woods, into the goalkeeper's right corner.
Suddenly, the Dutch were in competitive mode, too competitive for most tastes, when Wouters' elbow put Gascoigne out of the game at half- time.
While Gascoigne was having a precautionary X-ray, which revealed no serious damage to his bruised jaw, Paul Merson was taking the field for the second half. At the same time, the Dutch made a significant substitution of their own, bringing on John de Woolf to stabilise their defence and pushing Bergkamp forward into an orthodox striker's role, in place of Johnny Bosman.
England's tempo and spirit remained high. Dutch morale, on the other hand, appeared to sag a little at the sight of Gullit retiring from the fray. The Great Man walked off at the slow march, receiving a warm round of applause.
England were heading for an even bigger ovation until, with five minutes left, they were laid low by a self- inflicted wound.
Keown and Barnes made a mess of disputing midfield possession with Winter, and Overmars' insidious run panicked Walker into dragging him back by the shirt.
Peter Van Vossen stepped up to claim his sixth goal in as many internationals from the penalty spot and instead of walking off to the strains of 'Pomp and Circumstance', which had been Taylor's dream, the tunes of glory were all Dutch.
England: Woods (Sheffield Wednesday); Dixon, Keown (both Arsenal), Palmer (Sheffield Wednesday), Walker (Sampdoria), Adams (Arsenal), Platt (Juventus), Gascoigne (Lazio), Ferdinand (QPR), Barnes (Liverpool), Ince (Manchester United). Substitutes: Merson (Arsenal) for Gascoigne h/t.
Netherlands: De Goey (Feyenoord); Blind, F de Boer (both Ajax), Wouters (Bayern Munich), Rob Witschge (Feyenoord), Winter (Lazio), Bergkamp (Ajax), Rijkaard (Milan), Bosman (Anderlecht), Gullit (Milan), Overmars (Ajax). Substitutes: Van Vossen (Ajax) for Gullit, 70; De Wolf (Feyenoord) for Bosman h/t.
Referee: P Mikkelsen (Denmark).
Hughes inspires Wales,
Zambians in air crash, page 39
NORWAY kept ahead of England at the top of Group Two by beating Turkey 3-1 in Oslo. Norway took the lead through Kjetil Rekdal, with a 14th-minute penalty. Jan Aage Fjoertoft and Jahn Ivar Jakobsen added further goals before Feyyaz Ucar scored for Turkey. Poland, in the same group, managed only a 1-0 win over San Marino in Lodz.
(Photograph omitted)Reuse content