Football: Netherlands beat England 2-1 at Wembley
Three days after beating the world champions, England was given a reality check ahead of the European Championship by a team that didn’t even qualify for the tournament.
England squandered a lead and lost 2-1 to the Netherlands in an international friendly at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday, stalling the momentum built up after consecutive wins over France in November and Germany on Saturday.
Jamie Vardy’s 41st-minute goal, at the end of a flowing team move, looked like helping England to another victory over a traditional European power — albeit a Dutch side massively hit by injuries and reeling from failing to qualify for Euro 2016.
But the Netherlands took advantage of England’s ongoing defensive uncertainty, with striker Vincent Janssen converting a 50th-minute penalty and then setting up substitute Luciano Narsingh for a winner in the 77th.
“It’s very much highs and lows this week,” England manager Roy Hodgson said, after the team’s last match before he selects his 23-man squad for the Euros on May 12.
This was the last chance for England players to stake their claims and Hodgson chose an experimental team, mostly comprising fringe players.
Vardy did his chances no harm, scoring three days after also finding the net in the 3-2 win at Germany in Berlin. But it was a difficult evening for center back John Stones, while debutant Danny Drinkwater — so impressive and full of energy for unfancied leader Leicester in the Premier League this season — wasn’t helped by being tied to a midfield anchor role.
For the Netherlands, though, this was a step in the right direction after embarrassingly finishing fourth in its Euro 2016 qualifying group, so soon after placing third at the 2014 World Cup. On a night when Dutch great Johan Cruyff, who died last week, was honored with a selection of tributes at Wembley, the national team could finally smile.
“The audience was fabulous and that’s what he deserved,” Netherlands coach Danny Blind said of the tributes for Cruyff, which included a minute’s applause in the 14th minute — marking the No. 14 shirt he used to wear.
“We are still disappointed that we aren’t going to France this summer. We needed this win for the team, the staff and the people of Holland, to get some goodwill back.”
There’s talk of a Hollywood movie being made of Vardy’s rise to the top of English soccer with Leicester, and his fairy-tale season continued at Wembley with his 21st goal of the season for club and country.
He lit up a dull first half by finishing a team move that started with James Milner’s inside pass to Daniel Sturridge, who dummied to give Adam Lallana some space. Lallana played in Kyle Walker, who squared the ball for Vardy to tap in from seven meters.
It was fitting that Lallana’s role in the goal involved a so-called “Cruyff Turn” on the edge of the box.
That goal concealed a disappointing first half from England, which lacked the dynamism and cohesion the team had in Berlin on Saturday. It was no surprise considering Hodgson made eight changes to the starting team.
England began the second half in sloppy fashion, too, capped by the conceding of a penalty. Moments after Janssen had a one-on-one chance saved following Stones’ slip in possession, the striker converted a penalty after a right-wing cross from Narsingh struck left back Danny Rose on the arm.
A raft of substitutions disrupted the flow of the game in the final half-hour but the Dutch, missing 14 players, still looked dangerous and Narsingh’s goal condemned England to its first home loss since 2013.
Janssen shoved substitute Phil Jagielka off the ball, collected it near the byline and sent over a low cross that Narsingh slotted home at the far post.
After beating Germany, the English public may have started to dream ahead of the Euros. This loss might puncture the hype.
“There is plenty of opportunity to regain momentum,” said Hodgson, whose team has three more friendlies before Euro 2016 begins.