Huntelaar becomes hunter as Dutch deliver on promise

HOLLAND were every bit as professional as coach Marco van Basten promised they would be as they outclassed Romania to send Victor Piturca’s side home and hand Italy a Euro 2008 lifeline.

Second-half strikes from Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Robin van Persie at Bern’s Stade de Suisse Wankdorf earned the Oranje — already assured of a quarter-final berth and top spot in Group C — their third win of the tournament.

“We played a good game. We started not really fresh, not really good — maybe because the pitch was a little bit wet,” said Van Basten.

“After a difficult 20-25 minutes, we came into the game, played better and better and created a lot of chances.”

“We have got to be very proud and happy that we have won three games. In the beginning it was the ‘Group of Death’, so nine points and nine goals, we can be very happy about that.”

Defeat for the Dutch would have seen both 2006 World Cup finalists Italy and France eliminated, but even a much-changed Holland line-up were simply too good for Romania.

Piturca’s side offered little in attack, failing to seriously test Ajax goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg.

Instead it was the Azzurri who clinched second place in the ‘Group of Death’ thanks to their 2-0 triumph over France in Zurich.

Van Basten made nine changes from the team which thumped Les Bleus 4-1, with only Orlando Engelaar and Khalid Boulahrouz retained.

Adrian Mutu engineered some space for himself inside the area in the 24th minute but Wilfred Bouma got enough on his left-footed shot on the turn to avert the danger.

At the other end, Boulahrouz burst down the right 11 minutes before half-time and fed Huntelaar, whose first-time effort flew over the bar.

Two minutes later, Robben latched onto Huntelaar’s neat flick and looked to slot his shot into the bottom left corner with the outside of his left boot, but the Real Madrid man’s shot trickled the wrong side of the post.

Romania could have given themselves the perfect fillip a minute before half-time when Razvan Rat pulled the ball back for Paul Codrea, but he fired over.

Van Persie almost scored a sublime goal within four minutes of the restart when he pulled down a long ball with his left foot, took one more touch to turn and then got a right-footed shot away which Bogdan Lobont got down well to save.

However, Van Basten did not have to wait too much longer to see his side deservedly open the scoring.

Ibrahim Afellay played in the cross from the right, Engelaar’s dummy had the Romanian defence all at sea and Huntelaar timed his run to perfection to slot past Lobont in the 55th minute.

Van Persie struck a sweet left-footed volley over the bar in the 82nd minute as Holland looked to double their advantage.

Then, in the 88th minute, man of the match Van Persie set Italian hearts at rest by controlling the ball on his chest, shaking off the attentions of Cosmin Contra and blasting a left-footed sizzler past Lobont.

HOLLAND: Stekelenburg, Boulahrouz (Melchiot 58), Heitinga, Bouma, De Cler, De Zeeuw, Engelaar, Afellay, Van Persie, Robben (Kuyt 62), Huntelaar (Vennegoor of Hesselink 82).

ROMANIA: Lobont, Contra, Tamas, Ghionea, Rat, Cocis, Codrea (Dica 72), Chivu, Nicolita (Petre 82), Marius Niculae (Daniel Niculae 59), Mutu.

Referee: Massimo Busacca (Switzerland).

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