• England v Netherlands

Robben rocks England with late winner

ESPN staff
February 29, 2012

Wednesday gallery

England produced a stirring finish to rally from two goals down but a late goal from Arjen Robben handed Netherlands a 3-2 win.

Stuart Pearce's side looked set for a hiding when falling behind to goals from Robben and Klaas Jan Huntelaar, but they drew level thanks to goals from Gary Cahill and Ashley Young. But, in injury time, Robben had the last word as his deflected shot beat Joe Hart to hand the World Cup finalists the win.

England are in transition following the departure of Fabio Capello and there is clearly much to work on with the European Championship on the horizon, but they showed excellent fighting spirit to suggest they can mix it with the top sides.

England's first effort on the Dutch goal came from the boot of Netherlands star Robben who did superbly to dispossess Micah Richards only to turn the ball blindly towards his keeper and Maarten Stekelenburg did well to get across and toe the ball away. Robben was dangerous at the correct end as far as the Dutch were concerned, with Hart having to be alert to keep out a fierce drive.

Scott Parker was given the nod to lead out the side by Pearce and he was swiftly in the action to justify the decision, making a couple of brilliant blocks and tackles.

Cahill had a decent headed chance, but openings were at a premium early on for England - although Stekelenburg had to be alert to dash off his line to deny Danny Welbeck who attempted to latch on to a slack defensive header.

Adam Johnson set off on a jinking run that caused the Dutch problems and he almost produced a fine end product, but his shot was deflected wide by John Heitinga.

Pearce withdrew Steven Gerrard, who played for over two hours in the Carling Cup final on Sunday, and he disappeared straight down the tunnel for assessment on what has been described as a tight hamstring.

Gerrard was replaced by Daniel Sturridge and he made a positive impact. A fine run towards the end of the first half served notice of his threat and he forced a good save out of Stekelenburg at the start of the second.

Robben was the primary threat for the Dutch in the first half and he showed his class with the opening goal. He picked up the ball in his own half, turned on the afterburners to gallop away from the England midfield. A clever run from Huntelaar pulled away Smalling and Cahill to hand him space and he took advantage by flashing a shot beyond Hart.

Within a couple of minutes Huntelaar got himself on the scoresheet, but he took a blow to the head for his troubles. A pinpoint cross from Dirk Kuyt invited the forward to attack the ball. He did so in style, planting a crisp header beyond Hart.

In the process the Dutchman and Smalling clashed heads. Both players were left lying on the ground. Huntelaar got to his feet and was substituted, but Smalling was treated for some time before being stretchered off.

Sturridge had a chance to shine on the international stage but he passed up the sort of chance his Chelsea team-mate Fernando Torres has been squandering when completely missing his kick from three yards.

Cahill, though, showed his Chelsea team-mate Sturridge how to finish, with the defender popping up in the Dutch box, from what looked an offside position, and slipping a low shot under Stekelenburg. And England were level minutes before the end as Young seized on a fine pass from Theo Walcott to clip the ball home.

But England's joy turned to despair in injury time as Robben, the star turn on the night, fired in a shot that clipped off Cahill's shoulder and beyond Hart to seal the win.

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