Home » EPL, International, Latest » Match Report: England 2 Holland 3

This was a night for some flickers of hope, for admiration particularly in the deft way Daniel Sturridge kept working the ball into dangerous areas. The Chelsea attacker was a real positive, whether cutting in from the right or scheming in the centre. Sturridge could have forced himself not just on the plane to Euro 2012 but into contention to start against France in Donetsk. Sturridge exuded a belief some others lacked.

Some encouragement could also be gleaned from the selfless front-running of Danny Welbeck, who was often an isolated figure, starved of service, rarely threatening Maarten Stekelenburg but unstinting in his effort. For all the hard work of Welbeck and particularly Sturridge, Wednesday night provided a painful reminder of how reliant England are on Wayne Rooney for a creative spark and a cutting edge. His red card against Montenegro is the hurt that keeps on hurting. As on Wednesday night, England will miss Rooney against France and Sweden.

England’s pool of positives is as low as the nation’s reservoirs. Yet those long-suffering fans who continue to turn up in considerable numbers will have taken away one stirring memory. Even when faced with clear evidence of the tactical and technical superiority of the World Cup finalists, England refused to wave the white flag.

Trailing to goals from Arjen Robben and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, they fought back late on, through Gary Cahill and Ashley Young before Robben restored some sanity to the scoreline. Stuart Pearce, England’s caretaker, can still take some crumbs of comfort from having dined at the top table. He must now continue watching England players perform for their clubs, compiling reports for Harry Redknapp if the FA makes its long-awaited move. Pearce insisted that he was still happy to step “into the breach’’ should the FA fail to appoint a full-time successor to Fabio Capello in time for the Euros. Pearce’s main job now will be crossing his fingers for no more injuries.

Kenny Dalglish’s media briefing this morning should be an all-ticket affair after Steven Gerrard departed with a tight hamstring. Having been overlooked by Pearce for the England captaincy, this was a day Gerrard will want to forget. Manchester United await a full prognosis on Chris Smalling’s facial injury that saw him spill blood and leave on a stretcher. Sturridge also injured a toe. This was not a great night for building harmony between clubs and country.

It was a night for another reality check, for confirmation that England remain below the level of such sides as Holland.

Parity would have been an iniquity to Holland, who stepped up a gear when required to pull away from England. Robben was particularly terrific, all pacey threat, taking his goals well. Robin van Persie was subdued, clearly protecting a groin problem, but his departure at the break simply brought Huntelaar into the fray. The Schalke 04 striker lasted scarcely a quarter of an hour but he enjoyed a Warholian 15 minutes of fame, creating one and scoring another.

Wesley Sneijder’s undoubted brilliance flickered only occasionally under the Wembley floodlights but what England would give for somebody who could pull the strings like Holland’s No 10.

The first half lacked the fireworks of the second. Cahill threatened with a header, Welbeck drew applause with a dragback while Scott Parker, controversially named captain ahead of Gerrard, threw himself into a block on Sneijder and Van Persie. Joe Hart saved well from Robben. Adam Johnson went close.

The Dutch, starting eight of their World Cup finalists, were not in the formidable form that saw them qualify so comfortably for the Euros, although that was to change so suddenly. For 45 minutes, Dirk Kuyt was struggling to escape Leighton Baines, a little Merseyside duel taking place on London soil.

The focus switched to Liverpool’s captain, to the sad sight of Gerrard’s day ending in further frustration by being substituted and heading straight down the tunnel to the dressing-room. Sturridge darted on, immediately embarking on a strong run in from the right. Johnson had changed to the left with Young in the hole behind Welbeck. Rarely has an England attack been so callow. Yet there were signs of hope.

Kuyt was then cautioned, following an unpleasant challenge on Parker. Challenged first by De Jong, Parker was finished off by Kuyt, who came flying in, turning his body and catching England’s captain. England finished the half strongly, assisted by the urgency emanating from Sturridge’s boot. The Chelsea player was clearly relishing this opportunity, popping up in the middle as the half closed. Sturridge found Johnson, who turned and lifted the ball into the box where Young headed over.

The second half brought further evidence of Sturridge promise before Holland accelerated clear just before the hour-mark. Huntelaar made a marvellous decoy run to open up England’s defence, Smalling and Cahill following the newcomer after 57 minutes. Robben was arriving on a run that had seemed to have started at Hanger Lane. Racing into space created brilliantly by Huntelaar, Robben placed the ball firm past Hart.

Like London buses, another Dutch goal came along quickly. Again, England defended poorly, reacting sluggishly to Dutch movement. The visitors were quicker in mind and movement, Kuyt crossing from the right, exploiting lax marking by Baines. The ball was superb, arrowed perfectly for Huntelaar to head powerfully past Hart. In reaching the ball, Huntelaar collided with Smalling, splitting his nose and sending blood spilling down his black shirt. His game was over. So was Smalling’s.

And so began a crazy finish. Cahill eluded Joris Mathijsen and swept a low shot past Stekelenburg. England’s equaliser was a fine goal, the ball speeding between Parker, Theo Walcott and Phil Jones before Young nipped through and lifted the ball over Stekelenburg. But justice prevailed when Robben’s curling shot took a slight deflection off Cahill and beat Hart. This left plenty of food for thought, and a little indigestion for the FA. Hurry up Harry.
Scorers
England
: Cahill 85, Young 90
Holland: Robben 57, Huntelaar 58, Robben 90
Att: 76,283

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