Huntelaar just the ticket as Dutch show mastery
Holland 3 Scotland 0: The future is orange, not tartan, as Scotland prove no match for hungry Holland
Sunday 29 March 2009
No surprises there then. The future is still orange, not tartan. But in losing this World Cup qualifier last night to a Dutch side who eased to victory after Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's opener, at least Scotland avoided the full embarrassment of the 6-0 stuffing they suffered in 2003.
There was, though, cause for red faces from some of the defending. Scotland's manager, George Burley, described Huntelaar's predatory goal as a "free header", while Robin van Persie also scored with his head despite the attentions of three defenders. Dirk Kuyt made it 3-0 late on, from the spot, after a Scottish rookie, Christophe Berra – who was only in the team because of an injury crisis – felled Huntelaar.
For Tartan Army foot soldiers looking for a bright side, second place in Group Nine was always the Scots' best hope once they had been drawn with the Dutch. That remains true, and Wednesday's game with Iceland will be every bit as important as Burley always maintained it would be. "The home games are must-win games," he said. "Wednesday is a massive game."
Burley acknowledged Holland's superiority but also complained that a Scottish "goal" from Gary Caldwell's header at 2-0 down had been chalked off. "I've spoken to six people and nobody can tell me what was wrong with it," he said. The referee and the Dutch would tell him that it was disallowed for a push on the home goalkeeper.
The upshot of defeat is that Iceland jumped from third to second in the group last night without even playing, thanks to goal difference. Extra woe was heaped on up to 1,000 Scotland fans who paid to see this game but were refused entry when their tickets, bought on the black market, turned out to be forgeries. They missed some lovely stuff. From the Dutch.
The Oranje took about 25 minutes to get warmed up, but when they found their rhythm, they were a delight. A pair of Hollywood balls in the 29th and 30th minutes from Mark van Bommel were struck with laser precision. The first found Arjen Robben and with superb control the former Chelsea winger killed it, then dashed towards the near post. Allan McGregor stopped the shot with his feet. The second curled invitingly into the area, where Huntelaar, dipping like a sprinter breasting the tape, won a race with a team-mate, if not any Scots, to reach it. He headed back across McGregor into the right side of the net.
Burley's line-up was surprising in that he unexpectedly gave a debut start to Cardiff's Ross McCormack, 22, but with so many regulars absent, this was going to be a struggle whoever played. Burley was able, for the first time, to field simultaneously his central dream trio of Darren Fletcher, Scott Brown and Barry Ferguson. "Dream" is a relative term, as the Dutch front quartet showed.
The prolific Huntelaar – eight goals in 11 games for Real Madrid – was the spearhead and he had a none-too-shabby threesome of Liverpool's Kuyt, Arsenal's Van Persie and Real Madrid's Robben backing him up.
The one good Scotland chance in the first half went begging when Kenny Miller, free on goal, waited too long and allowed Joris Mathijsen to take the ball clean off him.
Before Huntelaar opened the scoring, he had had a shot deflected into timidity, allowing McGregor to hold, while Van Persie had a shot blocked. The Arsenal man put his team two up in stoppage time at the end of the first half by rising through a triangle of Scots to head Robben's corner home.
Robben threatened whenever he had the ball, audaciously at times, as when a slow-mo lofted shot forced McGregor to stretch to hold it.
Scotland got a sniff of goal in the second half after Brown had run the ball into the box but Andre Ooijer poked the ball to safety.
Scotland had Caldwell's "goal" from a corner discounted for infringement, then Kuyt scored the third Dutch goal from the spot after Berra felled Huntelaar, who now has a 60 per cent strike rate from 20 internationals.
Bookings: Holland: De Jong, Huntelaar.
Referee: Laurent Duhamel (France).
Man of the match: Robben
Match rating: 7/10
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