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The Germans warded off a late Netherlands comeback to go top of Group B with a 2-1 victory in Kharkiv on Wednesday night. The clinical finishing of striker Mario Gomez was the major difference between the rivals, with Dutch striker Van Persie being wasteful again before finally getting a goal late in the game to give his team a lifeline. It was an entertaining end-to-end game which lived up to the pre-match hype, but Germany were just that little bit superior everywhere on the pitch and were very much deserving of their three points. The Germans hence now have two wins out of two, and need just a point to guarantee qualification as group-leaders. The Netherlands meanwhile are amazingly still in the running, but would need something of a minor miracle to go through. They need to beat Portugal and see Denmark lose to Germany, after which goal difference would decide which one of the three teams goes through as runners-up, with Germany being top of the group.
The Germans named an unchanged team, having looked solid in their 1-0 victory over the Portuguese. Goalscorer Mario Gomez was the lone man up top again, having Mesut Ozil just behind to support him. The dangerous Lukas Podolski and Thomas Muller were on the flanks, expected to run at defenders and put crosses in from time to time. Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger formed the defensive midfield pair in the centre ahead of the back four of Mats Hummels, Holger Badstuber, Philipp Lahm and Jerome Boateng. Bayern Munich shotstopper Manuel Neuer was between the sticks once again.
It wasnâ€™t as easy for the Dutch team which were still reeling from their shock 1-0 defeat to Denmark. Manager Bert Van Marwijk was particularly under a lot of pressure having kept Bundesliga top scorer Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Tottenham star Rafael van der Vaart on the bench in the first match. But, he kept faith in the attack that couldnâ€™t score past Denmark, the only change being the fit again Joris Mathijsen coming in for Ron Vlaar at centre-back. They organised themselves in an identical formation to the German team, with defensive midfield duo Mark Van Bommel and Nigel De Jong looking to stop the young German attack from running at their defence.
Netherlands made the brighter start of the two sides, much like their last match. Talismanic striker van Persie was almost put through by Sneijder in the first minute itself, but the ball had a tad too much on it. He did however find himself behind the German defence in the 7th minute with a beautiful lobbed through ball by Captain Van Bommel. With a chance to make up for his first game misses, Van Persie rather disappointingly hit the ball straight at Neuer, who gathered it comfortably.
It was Germanyâ€™s chance to attack next, and Ozil had an unexpected shot from the edge of the box smartly saved by Stekelenburg. It was an end-to-end affair, with Van Persie having another chance, this time putting it wide of the frame with his weaker foot. The Germans countered and Ozil had a penalty appeal rightly turned down.
Chances seemed to be flowing at both ends with the teams having dangerous crosses getting cleared. The breakthrough came in the 24th minute from the boot of the only person in both teams to have found the net in these Euros, Mario Gomez. The goal poacher was brilliantly put through by Schweinsteiger, and he neatly put the ball past Stekelenburg after an exquisite turn to set himself up.
The Dutch almost replied immediately through their Bayern Munich winger Ajren Robben striking a curler from some way out. His Bayern Munich teammate Neuer did well to hold onto a shot that seemed to be heading for the top corner.
The Germans were now very much on top, and Gomez came close to increasing the lead, but could not get a touch to a dangerous ball into the Dutch six yard box by Muller. They came awfully close minutes later when a superb curling free kick from Ozil found the head of an unmarked Badstuber. But, his effort was blocked on the line by Stekelenburg, who seemed to know little about it.
They did get the second in the 38th minute though thanks to some more genius play from hitman Gomez, who calmly held off defenders, played a one-two with Schweinsteiger and dispatched a shot past the hapless goalkeeper into the top corner with ease. It was about to get worse for Netherlands with the last kick of the half, but Stekelenburg was on hand to tip a deflected shot over the goal.
Half-time couldnâ€™t have come sooner for the Netherlands, who were once again disappointing in attack again with Van Persie having been wasteful once again. The start had been reminiscent of the Denmark-Netherlands game with the Dutch falling behind after starting as the better team.
Manager Bert van Marwijk made two changes at half time, bringing on Bundesliga topscorer Huntelaar and Tottenham star Rafael Van Der Vaart in a bid to salvage something from the game. However, the Germans kept their first half momentum going and almost extended their two goal lead. Stekelenberg made an excellent double save to deny German center-back Hummels, who had driven through the Dutch defence.
Striker Robin Van Persie finally put German goalkeeper Neuer to the test, striking a Robben cross first-time from the edge of the box, which seemed to be heading into the bottom corner. The shotstopper was equal to it, flying to his right to turn away the shot. The Germans responded and almost passed their way through to goal; but the final through ball being a bit too strong for Ozil. Sneijder then unleashed a powerful strike which had Neuer in trouble. But, it found the wrong side of the post, much to the keeper's relief.
Van Persie finally displayed the talent that saw him become the Premier League top-scorer last term. He held the ball up from the challenge of Hummels, charged towards the centre and unleashed an unstoppable strike from his wrong foot into the corner of the net; beautifully setting up the last 20 minutes of the match.
With the game becoming more stretched as it wore on, there were tackles flying all over the park. Ozil and Van Persie were on the receiving end inside opposing penalty areas, but both had their penalty shouts rightly turned down.
The Germans suffocated the Dutch with short passes and kept possession, running down the clock in the process. The two goal advantage was almost restored by Miroslav Klose, who sneaked in to catch Stekelenberg off-guard, who had stalled a bit too long on a back pass, but the keeper was lucky to see the ball squeeze under him on the wrong side of the post. The match ended 2-1, with Germany being the deserved winners to go top of the â€œGroup of Deathâ€.
Germany (4-2-3-1): Neuer, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm, Boateng, Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Ã–zil (Kroos 81'), MÃ¼ller (Bender 90+2'), Podolski, Gomez (Klose 72')
SUBS: Wiese, Zieler, Schmelzer, HÃ¶wedes, Mertesacker, GÃ¼ndoÄŸan, SchÃ¼rrle, Bender, Kroos, GÃ¶tze, Reus, Klose
Netherlands (4-2-3-1): Stekelenburg, Van der Wiel, Heitinga, Mathijsen, Willems, Van Bommel (Van der Vaart 46'), N. De Jong, Sneijder, Robben (Kuyt 83'), Van Persie, Afellay (Huntelaar 46')
SUBS: Vorm, Krul, Bouma, Vlaar, Boulahrouz, Schaars, Strootman, Van der Vaart, Kuyt, Huntelaar, L. De Jong, Narsingh
Score: Germany 2-1 Netherlands (Gomez 24', 38', Van Persie 74')
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