History Trumps Form

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar November 14, 2015 22:38

History Trumps Form

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (November 13th 2015)

Reversals

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Seventeen months ago the Netherlands entertained Chris Coleman’s Wales side in Amsterdam – the last friendly that Wales played. Tonight they met again. The Dutch had been near the top of the world then, but suffered a major reversal of fortune since – from third in the World Cup to fourth in their European Championship group. Meanwhile, Wales have undergone a Damscene conversion of their own.

Coleman has masterminded their journey in the opposite direction from perennially failing to qualify for major finals to making history. But the Dutch have a sense of history. They have never lost to Wales and tonight would be no different – winning 3-2. It was Wales’ first defeat at the Cardiff City Stadium in two years.

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“We played a good game, we played as a team but we had some problems in the first period”, Blind said. “It was a hard job to motivate them after we missed out on the Euros but the team were focused and put a lot of energy in the game”.

Warmed Up

Just over half an hour into the match, which had been sparse on chances until then – Bas Dost and the impressive Tom Lawrence exchanged weak efforts that were easily saved by Wayne Hennessey and Jasper Cillessen respectively – Dost made amends.

VfL Wolfsburg’ striker gave a typically Dutch flowing move, which culminated in Daryl Janmaat’s cross the finish it deserved – a header that Wayne Hennessey should have kept out – it squirmed in off the Crystal Palace keeper’s body. It was Dost’s first goal for his country.

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“It was a good exercise, they are a good team who have been criticised a lot, but they are still have top-quality players”, Coleman told journalists. “We knew it would be tough and we always want to win, but we got a lot of other things out of the game”.

Harsh

Wales caught an enormous break as half time approached. French referee – our condolences and outrage to that nation on the abominations that occurred in Paris tonight, including at the Stade de France – Benoît Bastien controversially gave the hosts a penalty in the second of three minutes of added time. The decision incensed Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben, but their protests counted for nothing.

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It was a very harsh decision as Terence Kongolo’s hands were raised – to protect his face – from point blank range. Ben Davies’ shot hit the Feyenoord defender’s hand from a couple of yards away. Cillessen – remember he was replaced in the World Cup by Tim Krul for a penalty shoot-out by then Dutch manager Louis van Gaal saved Joe Allen’s rather poor penalty to his right, but Crystal Palace’s Joe Ledley was following up to slot the rebound in even though Cillessen got a hand to it.

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Wales were level at half-time even if it was slightly fortuitous. A couple of minutes earlier Galatasaray’s midfield maestro Sneijder – who is ten caps short of the Dutch record released Jeffrey Bruma on the left flank. Promes’ snap shot was straight at Hennessey who partially atoned for his earlier error although the Spartak Moscow midfielder should not have allowed him a chance to make the save.

“In the second half we should have scored four or five but the goals we conceded were a concern”, Blind said.

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Class Tells

We can but wonder what would have happened if Robben had been fit throughout the Netherlands’ qualifying campaign. The Bayern München winger and Dutch captain was the difference between the sides, settling for a brace when he could and perhaps ought to have had at least double that. Within a couple of minutes of the restart Hennessey fully redeemed himself with a marvellous save to deny Robben.

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West Ham United’s James Collins rarely starts for cub or country these days, but did himself no harm with a sterling performance as a defensive substitute tonight – the highlight being doing enough to harry Robben into dragging his shot wide when a player of his quality could and should have scored.

Nevertheless, Robben’s class was absolutely telling. After 53 minutes, Promes incisive pass found Robben on the right wing. Davies made the elementary error or allowing Robben onto to his preferred left foot by cutting into the area and shooting to Hennessey’s right. The keeper had no chance.

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Credit

To their credit Wales found a way back into the match. Emyr Huws has had few chances to shine for Wales. The second half substitute took just 16 minutes to justify Coleman’s faith. A short corner was crossed by Joe Allen a d Huws’ header gave Cillessen no chance. In the quarter of an hour between Robben’s goal and Huws’ George Williams and Neil Taylor got in each other’s way – wasting Lawrence’s inviting but deflected cross.

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Coleman saw positives. “We were competitive”, he said. “We used our full number of six subs and were still competitive. We scored two goals without Bale and Ramsey, which is a big thing when you look at who was getting the goals for us in the qualification campaign”.

Meanwhile Robben returned the favour to Promes, but he shot straight at Hennessey, who parried it. Another historic moment followed. Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s goalkeeper Owain Fôn Williams has been in Welsh squads for 6 years without playing a minute. That changed tonight. He replaced Hennessey with 17 minutes left. He could do nothing about Robben’s second – the Dutch winner. Dost’s pass from the left between Davies and Collins found Robben in on goal two minutes after he had wasted a golden opportunity. That wasn’t going to happen again.

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“We play Germany on Tuesday and France and England in March, the big countries”, said Blind.

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar November 14, 2015 22:38
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