Euro 2012: Gomez is Germany’s Dutch destroyer
Holland 1 (Van Persie 73)
Germany 2 (Gómez 24, 38)
Mario Gomez’s double fired Germany to the verge of the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 to leave the Dutch heading for a first-round exit.
World Cup finalists Holland will bow out on Sunday unless they beat Portugal in their final game at the Metalist Stadium and hope Germany defeat Denmark the same day in Lviv to give them a chance of reaching the last eight.
Having scored the winning header in Germany’s opening 1-0 victory over Portugal, Germany’s Gomez is now the tournament’s early joint top-scorer with Russia’s Alan Dzagoev with three goals after Bastian Schweinsteiger set up both his first-half strikes.
Holland gave themselves a lifeline when Robin van Persie pulled one back, but it was not enough to prevent their second defeat after a shock 1-0 loss to Denmark.
“It was very tight right up until the end and was nerve-wracking for us,” admitted Gomez. “We have to remain realistic, we have taken six points against two top-class teams, but we want more. “I’m very happy to have scored two goals to help the team, it is important that the right playars and the coach are behind me. There is still a long way to the final.”
Scorching temperatures in eastern Ukraine meant the game kicked off with the thermometer showing 29°C. Dutch defender Joris Mathijsen was the only change to the team beaten 1-0 by Denmark last Saturday, while the Germans kept the same team which beat Portugal.
A great chance fell to Van Persie after five minutes as a ball over the top got behind the German defence, but the striker could only fire his shot into Neuer’s grateful arms.
Germany replied as Mesut Ozil hit the post from the edge of the penalty area on eight minutes, but the Dutch went back on the attack soon after as Van Persie fired wide this time.
The Germans took the lead thanks to a clever through-ball from Schweinsteiger which beat the static Dutch off-side trap and fell to the feet of Gomez, who powered onto the pass and rifled home on 24 minutes.
The pair combined again when Schweinsteiger’s pass freed Gomez on the right and he fired past Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg to make it 2-0 to the Germans.
It could have been 3-0 to Joachim Loew’s Germans as defender Holger Badstuber had headed straight at Stekelenberg before Gomez’s second.
Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk shook up his attack after the break by bringing on Tottenham Hotspur’s Rafael van der Vaart for captain Mark van Bommel and Schalke striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for Barcelona’s Ibrahim Afellay.
The Oranje upped the pace and created several chances before Van Persie put them back in the game when he turned Germany defender Sami Khedira to fire an unstoppable shot past Manuel Neuer’s left hand into the bottom corner.
Both sides made changes in the last ten minutes with legs tiring in the stifling heat, as Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt came on for Bayern’s Arjen Robben.
Clearly showing his discontent at the decision Robben vaulted the advertising hoardings and trudged off without shaking his team-mates hands, summing up the mood within the squad.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany)
The Dutch gave him room to maneovere and the Bayern star made them pay. He played the two clinical balls to Gomez, covered the most ground in the first half and his impressive pass completion (93 per cent) capped a wonderful display.