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UEFA EURO 2016

Czechs leave it late to down Dutch

(FIFA.com)
Czech Republic players celebrate after the UEFA Euro 2016 Group A win over Netherlands
© AFP

The Czech Republic's Vaclav Pilar grabbed a dramatic late winner against the Netherlands in their opening UEFA EURO 2016 qualifier to seal a surprise 2-1 victory in Prague. Pilar capitalised on an error by Netherlands defender Daryl Janmaat to score in stoppage time at the end of the game, with the new Newcastle United signing heading past goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen and only able to watch as Pilar anticipated the rebound off the post to convert from a couple of yards.

It was a poor way to end the match for the team which had finished third at the FIFA World Cup™ as they had got themselves back into the game when Stefan de Vrij cancelled out Dockal's opener and looked like finishing the stronger.

The outcome was not what Guus Hiddink would have hoped for in the first competitive match of his second spell in charge of the national team, especially against a side who failed to make it to Brazil this summer. It was the Netherlands' first defeat in qualifying in almost three years and will serve as an early warning that, although they are favourites to win Group A, it may not be all plain sailing.

With the Czechs happy to concede territory inside the visitors' half and counter-attack quickly when they won back the ball, the Dutch found themselves enjoying a lot of early possession without really threatening.

By contrast, the hosts made the most of their chances with Dockal producing a brilliant strike to beat Cillessen in the 22nd minute. Forward David Lafata held off centre-back Bruno Martins Indi on the edge of the penalty area and dropped the ball back to his Sparta Prague team-mate. The midfielder cut across the ball slightly with his left foot, which gave it enough spin to take it wide of the goalkeeper and in off the post.

Five minutes before half-time, Hiddink replaced Joel Veltman with Luciano Narsingh as he abandoned his 3-5-2 formation for a more familiar 4-3-3 - even accounting for the injured Arjen Robben and Klaas Jan Huntelaar. The substitute had one half-chance to draw his side level but could not get a high-bouncing ball under control on the edge of the six-yard area, with Holland's best effort seeing Chelsea's Petr Cech tip over Memphis Depay's long-range strike.

Dutch apply pressure, Czechs pounceThe Netherlands increased the pressure after the break and were rewarded within ten minutes when, following the breakdown of a corner, new Manchester United defender Daley Blind crossed to the far post for De Vrij to outjump Pavel Kaderabek and power home a header.

That should have been the signal for the Dutch to seize the initiative but, apart from a Depay header saved by Cech, they failed to create many meaningful chances. And it was the home side who came through to win as, after defender Vaclav Prochazka had headed over Vladimir Darida's cross, they capitalised on Janmaat's mistake.

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