With three goals, the Netherlands thrashed the 2006 world champions Italy 3-0 and stormed into the lead in the 'Group of Death', ahead of France and Romania, who earlier drew 0-0. (Report: J. Walsh and C. Westerheide)
BERNE - Netherlands outplayed world champions Italy and romped to a 3-0 win in the first clash of the heavyweights at Euro 2008 in the Stade de Suisse on Monday.
A controversial goal from Ruud Van Nistelrooy, a superbly executed volley by birthday boy Wesley Sneijder and a breakaway third goal by Giovanni van Bronckhorst late in the Group C game sealed a comfortable victory.
The deserved win was the first by the Dutch over Italy since the 1978 World Cup finals and put them at the top of the group after France and Romania drew 0-0 in the section's opening game in Zurich earlier in the day.
The match turned in five dramatic minutes in the first half when Marco van Basten's side scored twice, although the first should not have been allowed to stand.
Striker Van Nistelrooy was clearly in an offside position when he turned in a shot from Sneijder, who was celebrating his 24th birthday, after 26 minutes.
Despite vehement Italian protests to the linesman, Swedish referee Peter Frojdfeldt ignored their calls to the delight of the vast swathes of orange-clad Dutch fans in the stadium.
They had more to cheer five minutes later when the Dutch doubled their lead with the best goal of the competition so far.
It began when a corner by Andrea Pirlo at the other end of the field took a deflection off a Dutch player before being cleared off the line by Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
He then ran 50 metres to continue the move after Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart had taken it out of the Dutch defence.
Van Bronckhorst sent a huge cross-field pass to Dirk Kuyt who headed the ball back for Sneijder to volley home brilliantly between Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon and his near post.
The Dutch almost went 3-0 ahead two minutes before halftime but for a superb point-blank save by Buffon from Van Nistelrooy after a great though ball from Van der Vaart.
Italy had chances and Luca Toni should have given them the lead after 12 minutes but he headed wide and Antonio Di Natale's shot was smothered by Edwin van der Sar before the break.
However, they lacked real bite in attack, were frequently out-tackled in midfield and will need to improve quickly to keep alive their chances of reaching the last eight.
Van Bronckhorst rounded off the win with the third goal 11 minutes from time after another Dutch counter-attack.
Date created : 2008-06-09