Romania 1-4 Netherlands: Oranje go clear in Group D after confident victory
Amsterdam: Netherlands maintained their perfect World Cup 2014 qualification record with 4-1 win in Romania on Tuesday, a result which sees the Oranje overtake their hosts at the top of Group D.
A thrilling first-half saw Jeremain Lens and Bruno Martins Indi put the visitors two goals ahead in the opening half an hour, before a brilliant solo effort from Ciprian Marica pulled the hosts back into the tie.
The Dutch would take a two-goal lead into the interval however, with Rafael van der Vaart converting from the spot in added time.
Neither side were able to replicate their first-half dynamism in the second period, with Netherlands comfortable controlling the tempo of the game and holding on to collect three valuable points. A late Robin van Persie strike sealed the victory for his side.
The match began in frantic fashion with both sides applying immediate pressure. The hosts were handed the first chance of note when nervy play at the back culminated in Johnny Heitinga fouling his opponent, with Gabriel Torje coming within inches of converting the resulting free-kick. The 22-year old`s curling effort rocketed off the underside of the crossbar, allowing the visitors to clear.
The Oranje were on hand to respond just minutes later however, with Lens opening the scoring in the ninth minute. A poor clearance from Romania keeper Ciprian Tatarusano found the PSV man on the edge of the area, and his speculative header found its way into the back of the net.
The opening goal sparked a frenzied period of offensive play from the hosts, with Gheorghe Grozav beating the offside trap and finding himself one-on-one with Maarten Stekelenburg. The striker`s attempt was straight at the Roma stopper however, and the 29-year confidently collected the effort.
Romania`s offensive intentions left gaps to be exploited for the Dutch however, who quickly settled into a midfield rhythm. The Oranje nearly doubled their lead from a corner in the 17th minute, when Van Persie`s classy flick was well parried by Tatarusano. A free-kick from range was mis-hit by the Manchester United forward shortly after, as the visitors continued to draw fouls from the hosts in the final third.
And it was from a set piece that Netherlands found their second goal, when Indi tapped home a Van der Vaart free-kick to double his side`s lead on the half hour mark. The Feyenoord defender was allowed to drift away from his marker as the ball curled in, and he converted with the simplest of finishes from point-blank range.
The Tricolori piled on the pressure with half-time approaching, and Marica pulled the hosts back into it with a virtuoso goal in the 39th minute. The Schalke forward beat three Dutch defenders en route to the edge of the area, from where he unleashed a low drive past Stekelenburg to halve the Oranje`s lead.
The goal brought the home crowd back to life, and the Romanians continued to push for an equaliser before the interval. Gabriel Torje soon found space on the right and whipped in an inviting effort towards the six-yard box, but strong communication between Ron Vlaar and his keeper allowed the visitors to clear.
The Netherlands were able to restore their two-goal lead before the break however, when Gabriel Tamas brought down Luciano Narsingh with the ball seemingly rolling out of play. Van der Vaart confidently stepped up to convert the penalty, rocketing a low drive past the hands of Tatarusano.
The second-half saw the Dutch settle back into their midfield tempo, with the hosts resorting to physicality to stem the likes of Narsingh and Van der Vaart. Van Persie did well to latch onto a free kick delivery from the latter in the 48th minute, but a reflex save from the keeper denied the 29-year old.
The hosts were reluctant to settle for a loss however, and soon enjoyed their own positive spell. Bogdan Stancu tested Stekelenburg with a stinging drive in the 50th minute, finding the space to release a rocketing effort some 25 yards out. The Dutch stopper stood firm to parry the attempt however, with nothing coming from the rebound. Torje then sent in a promising delivery shortly after, but failed to find his intended target.
The two-goal cushion allowed Netherlands to lower their tempo after the hour mark, with the Oranje content to sit back and absorb pressure from the timid hosts. Romania skipper Razvan Rat sent in a sublime delivery with 15 minutes remaining, but the ball flew past the Shakhtar Donetsk man`s team-mates with the goal gaping.
Tempers boiled over as the match drew to a close, with the home crowd seething at the decision to deny the hosts a penalty. A flurry of bookings were issued in the final 10 minutes, but the Dutch maintained their composure to put the match to bed in the 85th minute. Narsingh found Van Persie with a brilliantly weighted low delivery from the right, which the Manchester United striker converted in clinical fashion.
Louis van Gaal`s side now top group D with 12 points, while Romania find themselves joint second alongside Hungary.