Russia swept aside Holland 3-1 after extra-time to earn a place in the last four of Euro 2008.
Guus Hiddink’s side came into the game as underdogs, but from the off they were the better team against a Ducth outfit who failed to recapture the verve that had characterised their imperious march through the group stages.
Goals from Roman Pavlyuchenko, Dmitri Torbinksy and the game’s outstanding performer, Andrei Arshavin, were enough to secure the win. Ruud Van Nistelrooy gave hope to the Dutch when he equalised with five minutes to go, but that strike merely delayed the inevitable.
The result may rank up their with Turkey’s surprise defeat of Crotia on Friday evening, but there was nothing fortunate about the tonight’s outcome, as Russia bossed the game from the off, and but for a more ruthless streak in front of goal, could have won by a greater margin.
There will be sympathy for Marco Van Basten’s side who have illuminated Euro 2008, but when it really mattered they bowed out of the tournament meekly to a vibrant Russian side.
Holland, who had looked devastating on the break throughout the tournament, but less accomplished when they had to force the issue, endured some hairy moments early on as Russia enjoyed plenty of possession.
On six minutes, the roving full-back Zhirkov brought the first save of the game when his curling free-kick from the edge of the area was tipped away by Edwin Van Der Sar. Two minutes later Pavlyuchenko found space in the penalty area but he was unable to control his header.
Russia were proving adept at suffocating the threat from the Dutch and Marco Van Basten’s side’s best chances came from set-pieces. On 29 minutes Van der Vaart curled in a wonderful free-kick towards Ruud Van Nistelrooy, but the Real Madrid striker was unable to make contact with the ball.
In open play though, it was Russia who looked the likelier scorers. Their best opportunity came just after the half hour mark when Engelaar lost possession and Russia broke in numbers with the ball eventually reaching Arshavin, whose curling right-foot effort was tipped around the post by Van der Sar. From the resulting corner, Van der Sar, who was much the busier of the two keepers, had to be alert to palm away a thunderous 30-yard effort from Kolodin.
As half-time approached, Holland began to string some passes together and Van Nistelrooy finally escape the attentions of Kolodin, but his shot from the edge of the area was saved comfortably by Akinfeev. Moments later, Kolodin carelessly ceded possession on the edge of his area to Van der Vaart, but the Hamburg playmaker shot straight at the Russian keeper.
All square at half-time and much to ponder for Van Basten who was seeing his side set some uncomfortable questions by Russia. The Dutch coach brought on Robin Van Persie for the annoynmous Dirk Kuyt after the break and the forward almost had an immediate impact when he raced on to a flick by Van Nistelrooy, but volleyed the ball wide.
Russia though, still looked the more fluent side, and it came as no surprise when they went ahead. Arshavin clipped the ball to Sergei Semak whose left-wing cross was volleyed in at the near post by Roman Pavlyuchenko. It was a well-worked goal by the Russians and on the balance of play, earned them a lead they thoroughly deserved.
Hiddink’s side, in keeping with his footballing philosophy, continued to press forward but their efforts were undermined by a wastefulness in front of goal. Hiddink, prowling his technical area, was visibly exasperated by his side’s penchant for trying to walk the ball into the net.
Holland, who had produced a flat performance throughout, looked deflated to have fallen behind for the first time in the tournament. Van Basten sacrificed the holding midfield player Engelaar and introduced Ibrahim Afellay in an attempt to inject a spark into what had been a laboured performance.
Nonetheless, the Dutch continued to struggle, and but for several long range efforts from Sneijder, rarely looked like conjuring up an equaliser. That was until five minutes from time when Sneijder swung in a wonderful free-kick and Van Nistelrooy hurled himself at the ball to divert a header in at the far post.
It was questionable at that stage whether the Dutch deserved the equaliser but as extra-time began the idea of parity between the two sides bordered on the ludicrous as Hiddink’s men continued to take the game to their opponents. For long spells Holland could not get the ball out of their own half as Russia, clearly affronted rather than demoralised by the late equaliser, pressed forward in search of a winner.
There was a freshness to the Russian players, which was all the more surprising given that they played three days ago while the majority of the Dutch side had enjoyed the luxury of an eight day break since their last game.
Eventually, the outstanding Arshavin got his just reward when he embarked on a run to the byline before chipping across the face of Van der Sar’s goal for substitute Torbinsky to tap in at the far post.
Worse was to follow for Holland when Arshavin collected a throw-in in before advancing on goal and firing a low shot between the legs of Van der Sar.
For Hiddink, defeating his homeland, may have generated mixed emotions, but he should take immense credit for turning around a side that had been written off after their opening game defeat to Spain. The two sides will meet again if Luis Aragones side prevail over Italy on Sunday night, and it seems unlikely that Spain will get it all their own way next time around.
Holland 1-3 Russia (aet)
Holland: Ruud van Nistelrooy 86
Russia: Roman Pavlyuchenko 56, Dmitry Torbinsky 112, Andrei Arshavin 116
90 mins: 1-1
105 mins: 1-1
Holland: 1-Edwin van der Sar; 21-Khalid Boulahrouz (3-John Heitinga 54), 2-Andre Ooijer, 4-Joris Mathijsen, 5-Giovanni van Bronckhorst; 17-Nigel de Jong, 8-Orlando Engelaar (20-Ibrahim Afellay 62); 18-Dirk Kuyt (7-Robin van Persie 46), 23-Rafael van der Vaart, 10-Wesley Sneijder; 9-Ruud van Nistelrooy
Russia: 1-Igor Akinfeyev; 22-Alexander Anyukov, 8-Denis Kolodin, 4-Sergei Ignashevich, 18-Yuri Zhirkov; 17-Konstantin Zyryanov, 11-Sergei Semak, 20-Igor Semshov (15-Diniyar Bilyaletdinov 69), 9-Ivan Saenko (7-Dmitry Torbinsky 81); 10-Andrei Arshavin, 19-Roman Pavlyuchenko (21-Dmitry Sychev 115).
Referee: Lubos Michel (Slovakia)