Dutch beat Italy at own game
Oranje enjoy 3-0 win over world champions to go two points clear
By Robin Hackett. Last Updated: 09/06/08 10:55pm
First blood: Van Nistelrooy breaks the deadlock
Holland secured their first victory over Italy for 30 years with a superb counter-attacking display that takes them two points clear in Group C after the first game.
Goals from Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wesley Sneijder and Giovanni van Bronckhorst gave Holland a deserved 3-0 victory in Berne, leaving both Italy and France with much to think about after their opening games.
Holland took the lead after 25 minutes when Gianluigi Buffon tipped the ball into Sneijder's path on the edge of the area, allowing him to drive the ball goalwards before his Real Madrid team-mate Ruud van Nistelrooy diverted home from close range.
There were substantial protests as Italy believed the striker was offside, but the goal was allowed to stand - seemingly because of the presence of Christian Panucci, who was lying behind the goal line throughout.
And it was 2-0 just five minutes later as Holland brilliantly caught Italy on the counter-attack. Van Bronckhorst cleared the ball from his own line before picking up a pass from Rafael van der Vaart and playing the ball to Dirk Kuyt, who set up Sneijder to superbly round off a wonderful team effort.
Italy rallied and had opportunities to get back into the game, but another cantenaccio goal 11 minutes from time made it 3-0 as Holland charged clear after an Andrea Pirlo free-kick, with Van Bronkhorst racing forwards before heading home a Kuyt cross after the Liverpool winger's effort initial effort was saved by Buffon.
The atmosphere at the Stade de Suisse was electric with the Oranje fans far outnumbering the Azzurri supporters.
Italy should have taken an early lead, but Luca Toni was unable to get behind Antonio Di Natale's dangerous cross.
In the 17th minute, Holland could have broken the deadlock following a defensive lapse by Italy. Dirk Kuyt played the ball to Van Nistelrooy, who got past Buffon but lost his balance and the opportunity vanished.
Shortly after, Sneijder's bullet strike went high over the crossbar as Holland got closer.
Holland broke the deadlock on 26 minutes with van Nistelrooy, who looked to be in an offside position, tapping the ball past Buffon in the six-yard box.
Just five minutes later, it was 2-0. Van Bronckhorst made a crucial goal-line clearance after a team-mate almost headed into his own net, and from that Holland broke and scored a brilliant goal on the counter-attack.
Van Bronckhorst was fed down the left after sprinting to join the attack before his long ball found Kuyt on the other flank. The Liverpool man then headed down for Sneijder inside the area, whose first-touch beat Buffon at his near post.
Italy could have reduced the deficit shortly afterwards, but Di Natale's close-range volley was saved by Van der Sar.
Three minutes before the break, Buffon made a stunning save to deny Holland their third of the evening. A beautiful ball by Sneijder found van Nistelrooy, whose strike was parried by Buffon.
Di Natale then fired just over the crossbar on the stroke of half-time.
Italy showed more determination after the re-start and had a good chance when Gianluca Zambrotta did well to get past Kuyt, but his effort went wide.
Toni then fired wide on the hour mark as the Italians began to bare their teeth. Shortly after, Pirlo's stinging free-kick fizzed wide, with Van der Sar already beaten.
Donadoni brought on Alessandro del Piero, and the veteran made an instant impact, firing on target but unable to beat the keeper.
Three and easy
But just when Italy looked to have found their rhythm, Holland scored again.
The goal came following another counter-attack, with Buffon doing well initially to deny Kuyt, but the rebound fell at the feet of the Liverpool forward, who managed to get a cross in for the unmarked Van Bronckhorst to head home.
Italy continued to press, but Holland defended resolutely and held on for a famous victory.
European Championships Group A
European Championships Group B
European Championships Group C
|4||Republic of Ireland||3||0|
European Championships Group D