Oranje keep up the pace
Holland marched into the quarter-finals of UEFA EURO 2008 with a 100 per cent record in group C and their momentum intact after their reserves strolled to a 2-0 victory over Romania on Tuesday.
A poacher's goal from Klaas Jan Huntelaar just after half-time and Robin van Persie's late strike sealed the win over opponents who were woefully devoid of ambition.
Needing to win to be sure of staying in the competition, Victor Piturca's side's only concern appeared to be to avoid the kind of mauling the Dutch had handed out to France and Italy in their first two group matches.
That was never on the cards with only rightback Khalid Boulahrouz and the defensive midfielder Orlando Engelaar surviving from the Dutch side that had started the 4-1 demolition of France.
But Marco van Basten's side were always in control and would
have ended the contest much earlier if Huntelaar and Arjen Robben,
who was withdrawn after an hour, had taken their first-half
Even so, van Persie said the result was proof positive of Dutch strength in depth. "This win tells you a lot. We don't have a B team but a team of 23 players," said the Arsenal star.
Romania's cutting edge was blunted by captain Cristian Chivu being forced to drop back into a holding role in midfield as a result of the serious eye injury suffered by team-mate Mirel Radoi in the 1-1 draw with Italy.
They were also missing suspended centreback Dorin Goian but none of that amounted to an excuse for an absurdly cautious approach which saw every outfield player regularly behind the ball as the Dutch probed for an opening.
The first of those came after 19 minutes, when Engelaar's cross found van Persie in space just beyond the back post, the Arsenal forward mistiming his jump and sending a header high into the crowd.
Mutu then saw a close range effort spin across the goalmouth after a last-ditch intervention by his marker, Wilfred Bouma, before van Persie headed another inviting Engelaar cross off target.
Mutu and Cosmin Cocis both tried their luck from distance without troubling stand-in goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg before the Dutch spurned two gilt-edged chances to take the lead in quick succession.
Sent into the box by Ibrahim Afellay's clever angled pass, Boulahrouz teed up Huntelaar in the 33rd minute but the striker, so prolific for Ajax, appeared edgy as he lifted his shot over the bar from 12 yards.
Huntelaar did better a few minutes later, helping Demy de Zeeuw's pass into the path of Arjen Robben with a deft first-time flick. With only Bodan Lobont to beat, the Real Madrid winger went for an equally cute finish and his strike slipped and inch to the left of the goalkeeper's right-hand post.
Romania's best chance of the first-half came a minute from the break. Razvan Rat made it to the byline and delivered an acute cutback for Paul Codrea, who blasted over from just inside the box.
It took a fine save from Lobont to deny van Persie three minutes after the restart and Holland's superiority finally told in the 54th minute.
Afellay's cross from the right was flicked on by Engelaar and, this time, Huntelaar demonstrated his predatory instincts by getting in front of his marker to prod past Lobont for his eighth goal in what was only his 13th international appearance.
There was a brief flurry of Romanian pressure in the closing minutes but it was to be van Persie who had the final word. Collecting a cross on the left of the Romanian box, the Arsenal forward held off Contra's challenge and the pace of his shot saw Lobont beaten at his near post.