Euro 2012 - Dutch too good for Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland were comprehensively beaten 6-0 by Netherlands at the Amsterdam ArenA as the Dutch made a statement of intent before Euro 2012.
The Oranje are pitted against Denmark, Portugal and Germany in what has been described as the Euro 2012 ‘Group of Death’ but the hosts were imperious against a Northern Ireland side weakened by withdrawals and injuries.
Robin van Persie got a goal either side of Wesley Sneijder‘s free-kick as the hosts raced into a 3-0 lead in under 30 minutes before Ibrahim Afellay put further gloss on an already polished first-half performance with a fourth before the interval.
Afellay added his second and Holland’s fifth just after the break before Ron Vlaar headed a sixth with a little over 10 minutes remaining.
It could have been more had it not been for a combination of some rather dogged defending and a bit of luck – with Rafael van der Vaart hitting a post as the game drew to a close.
With a wealth of attacking talent at his disposal, and his favoured system requiring only one central striker, Bert van Marwijk opted for Arsenal’s Van Persie to start ahead of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
And the Premier League’s Golden Boot winner set the tone for what was a turbulent first half for Michael O'Neill’s men when he headed the hosts into the lead from close range with 11 minutes on the clock.
The visitors seemed content to try to sit deep and soak up pressure but the hosts were rampant and it wasn’t long before Sneijder punished a clumsy challenge on Mark van Bommel with a sumptuous free-kick from 25 yards to double their advantage.
Having packed the midfield to stifle their hosts, Northern Ireland were unable to construct any sort of consistent attacking threat and with very little respite for their defence, it came as little surprise when they conceded a third.
Shane Ferguson handled in the box and Van Persie made no mistake from 12 yards before Afellay finished off a rapid break with a smart finish across Lee Camp to give the hosts a four-goal advantage at the break.
O'Neill made three changes at the interval in an attempt to stem the tide but Afellay expertly curled the ball past substitute goalkeeper Roy Carroll to make it five with six minutes of the second half gone.
A slew of second-half substitutes disrupted the fluency of what was turning into a vintage Dutch performance but the hosts continued to threaten and only a combination of some stout defending, good goalkeeping and fortune kept the score down.
The pick of the efforts not to be rewarded with the ball nestling in the back of the net was a delicate, curling Sneijder chip that just dropped the wrong side of the post with Carroll reduced to the role of spectator.
As the game drew to a close, the pace began to slow but there was still time for Vlaar to head Netherlands' sixth.