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Dutch find winning formula
« on: November 20, 2003, 12:26:56 AM »
Dutch find winning formula
Wednesday, 19 November 2003  
By Pete Sanderson in the Amsterdam ArenA
 The Netherlands celebrate their comprehensive win over Scotland  
Ruud van Nistelrooij fired a timely hat-trick as the Netherlands booked their ticket to UEFA EURO 2004™ with a breathtaking display of attacking football in Amsterdam.

Thunderous strike
AFC Ajax midfield player Wesley Sneijder opened the scoring with a thunderous 13th-minute strike before teeing up André Ooijer and Van Nistelrooij to give the Dutch a two-goal advantage at the break. Two more Van Nistelrooij goals either side of Frank de Boer's header killed off the game as a contest and ended any lingering hopes Scotland had of a comeback.

Fighting chance
In the first leg Berti Vogts' side had bravely survived wave after wave of Dutch attacks to give themselves more than a fighting chance of progressing to Portugal but somehow - amidst the cat-calling and cacophony of the Netherlands camp - Dick Advocaat's side found enough spirit to completely overwhelm the Scottish resistance.

Early bookings
It was Internazionale FC winger Andy van der Meyde who engineered the first real opportunity of the game. His jinking run down the right bamboozled both Paul Dickov and Gary Naysmith and Rafael van der Vaart's header from the resulting cross flew centimetres over the bar.

Inevitable opener
As the Netherlands' confidence steadily grew, it was Van Nistelrooij's turn to test the Scottish resolve - but his low shot was well held by Rab Douglas. With incessant pressure from the Dutch it seemed only a matter of time before the Scottish defence would crumble. The inevitable goal finally arrived thanks to a wonderful piece of skill from Wesley Sneijder, who turned Scotland captain Barry Ferguson in midfield before sending a stinging drive beyond the hapless Douglas to level the tie on aggregate.

Scotland chances
It was the crucial early goal which Advocaat had demanded and it lifted the tension which had veiled the Amsterdam ArenA in the build-up to the match. The goal also seemed to inspire their opponents - Lee Wilkie, Paul Dickov and James McFadden all threatened the Dutch goal, but what could have been a priceless away strike never materialised.

Sneijder creativity
If Scotland thought they had weathered the Dutch storm, they could not have been more wrong - Sneijder turned the game back in the home side's favour, setting up two carbon-copy goals from set-pieces on the left-hand side. The first arrived from a whipped-in cross which left Douglas flapping on 32 minutes - allowing Ooijer to cooly steer home. The second, five minutes later, was another dangerous ball which Van Nistelrooij converted with a towering header.

Swift exchange
Scotland had a chance to haul themselves back into contention one minute before the half-time interval, but Wilkie's header was pushed wide by Edwin van der Sar - and the visitors barely threatened again. After the break, the Dutch continued where they had left off, with Van Nistelrooij striking the killer fourth in the 51st minute. The Manchester United FC forward coolly lifted the ball over Douglas after a swift exchange with Rafael van der Vaart.

Perfect riposte
It was substitute Frank de Boer who turned in Sneijder's corner to make it five on 65 minutes and the Netherlands were now playing the kind of fantasy football we have come to expect of a side brimming with talented individuals. It was not long before Van Nistelrooij completed his hat-trick, turning in Van der Meyde's cross from the right. The goal capped a display which marked a perfect riposte by the Dutch to a week of turmoil and controversy.
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