Sunday 25 February 2018

Classy Dutch give England timely reality check

England 1 Netherlands 2

Jamie Vardy scores the opening goal past Jeroen Zoet (Getty Images)
Jamie Vardy scores the opening goal past Jeroen Zoet (Getty Images)

Sam Wallace

It's just like England that, having made such a bold, clear statement in beating Germany, they then go all Double Dutch. They lost to the Netherlands through a penalty that should never have been conceded and a winning goal that should not have been given to muddy further the debate as to who should and should not be in the team - or in the squad - for the European Championship finals.

Another name is now writ large, though. And of that there is no doubt. It is that of Jamie Vardy.

Pre-match, Wayne Rooney admitted that his son wanted Vardy's name on his shirt. Vardy, meanwhile, wants Rooney's England shirt and he scored another wonderful goal here, his second for his country in three days, and on his first start.

The 29-year-old striker wore the camouflage boots but he did not disappear - he was England's man-of-the-match - although the debate will rage about some of those around him - especially John Stones, who continues to divide opinion.

Jamie Vardy and Jeffrey Bruma battle for the ball (FA via Getty Images)
Jamie Vardy and Jeffrey Bruma battle for the ball (FA via Getty Images)

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Luciano Narsingh deflated England's growing Euro 2016 optimism with a match-winning performance as the Netherlands claimed victory.

The PSV Eindhoven winger, a first-half replacement for the injured Quincy Promes, won a penalty and then scored the winning goal as Danny Blind's team regained some pride on the night the late Johan Cruyff was honoured at Wembley by defeating one of the emerging favourites to win this summer's tournament.

The Dutch will not be there, but after England raised hopes of success in France with last Saturday's 3-2 win against Germany, the balloon was popped by goals by Narsingh and Vincent Janssen.

With England having made eight changes to the starting XI which triumphed in Berlin last weekend, there was always the danger of a disjointed look to Hodgson's second-string and an absence of the cut-and-thrust which sparked the victory against the Germans.

England certainly started slowly against a Dutch team clearly enduring a painful transition after trailing in fourth in their Euro 2016 qualification group.

Netherlands' striker Vincent Janssen (R) challenges England's defender Chris Smalling (Getty Images)
Netherlands' striker Vincent Janssen (R) challenges England's defender Chris Smalling (Getty Images)

Backed by just a handful of travelling supporters, in stark contrast to the thousands that usually follow the Dutch, Blind's team lacked the quality of recent stars such as Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben, with this team packed with emerging players who may or may not prove adequate successors.

But despite the unfamiliar look to the blue-shirted Dutch, it was Blind's team that started the game with the brighter chances, even if the first effort on goal did not materialise until the 16th minute when Ibrahim Afellay's shot was saved at the second attempt by Fraser Forster.

Georginio Wijnaldum also tested the Southampton goalkeeper before Vardy shot wide with England's first chance on 28 minutes after good work by left-back Danny Rose.

Ross Barkley, starting at the tip of a diamond formation behind Vardy and Daniel Sturridge, impressed for Hodgson's team, twice going close before Vardy put England ahead with a well-worked team goal four minutes before half-time.

The move was started by Adam Lallana, with the Liverpool midfielder unselfishly picking out the run of Kyle Walker in the penalty area before the Tottenham full-back pulled the ball back for Vardy.

The Leicester forward, who scored his first international goal in the win against Germany, made it two in two games by forcefully converting his chance from close range.

England narrowly deserved to go in ahead at the interval, but they were quickly pegged back by the Dutch early in the second-half when Blind's team equalised from the penalty spot.

Janssen had only just been denied by Forster when, having punished a slip by Stones, the AZ Alkmaar forward saw his shot well saved by the goalkeeper.

The loose ball dropped to Narsingh, however, and his cross was handled by Rose, prompting referee Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz to point to the spot, from which Janssen scored the equaliser.

England, with Danny Drinkwater impressing on his debut in midfield, attempted to regain the lead, but the Dutch held firm, with goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet saving brilliantly from Vardy on 61 minutes following the striker's powerful 25-yard shot.

It was the Dutch who scored the second, and decisive, goal when Janssen once again benefited from pressuring the England defence - this time barging Phil Jagielka off the ball - before Narsingh scored from six yards after being left unmarked.

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