Dutch win 2-1 to eliminate Ivory Coast
STUTTGART, June 16 (Reuters) Netherlands secured their place in the last 16 of the World Cup today, withstanding a powerful Ivory Coast onslaught for a 2-1 victory in Group C.
The Dutch seemed to be cruising after goals from Robin van Persie and Ruud van Nistelrooy put them 2-0 in front by the 26th minute. But they were made to fight all the way by the Africans, who are now eliminated.
''Until leading 2-0 we had played well, then we lost it,'' Dutch midfielder Mark van Bommel told reporters.
''We played badly but...we have to learn from it. Ivory Coast were strong opponents. They were always dangerous.'' A cagey opening barely hinted at the fireworks to follow, with an Ivory Coast penalty claim the main talking point when Giovanni van Bronckhorst wrapped an arm around Emmanuel Eboue.
The Dutch had hardly posed a threat before producing two moments of quality to leave the Ivorians reeling.
After 23 minutes Van Persie's burst towards the area was brought to a clumsy end by Kolo Toure and the Arsenal striker picked himself up to slam an unstoppable free kick past the flailing arms of goalkeeper Jean-Jacques Tizie.
REVERSE PASS Worse was to follow for the Africans when Arjen Robben teased the defence before slipping a reverse pass for Van Nistelrooy to curl a first-time shot past Tizie.
The Ivorians refused to let their World Cup hopes sink under the orange tide and rocked the Dutch back on their heels before halftime.
First Didier Zokora shook the frame of the goal with a venemous right-foot blast, then the diminutive Bakary Kone halved the deficit with a contender for goal of the tournament.
Taking the ball off Zokora on the left, Kone raced diagonally towards goal before clipping a rising shot past Edwin Van der Sar after 38 minutes.
It was the first goal the Dutch had conceded in 11 competitive matches, ending Van der Sar's international clean-sheet record at 1,013 minutes.
The Dutch had not let in a goal in their previous 10 non-friendly encounters, an all-time European record.
The interval took the wind out of the sails of the Ivory Coast as the early second-half exchanges were littered with niggly fouls.
But Van Persie came to the rescue for the uncomfortable Dutch after 78 minutes when he cleared a Didier Drogba header off the line.
Gilles Yapi Yapo also forced a save from Van der Sar three minutes later.
Dutch coach Marco van Basten said: ''We started very well in the first half but after that it became difficult. In the second half we could only defend.'' REUTERS DH RAI0023