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Stuart Pearce’s tenure as England manager started with a last gasp defeat after his side came back from 2-0 down in the dying minutes, only to be denied in the last minute by a deflected Arjen Robben effort. Two goals in two minutes from Robben and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar had given Holland a commanding lead, but late goals from Gary Cahill and Ashley Young seemed to have given England a draw. But straight from the kick-off, Robben curled the ball home via Cahill’s head to ensure Holland walked away with the victory.
It was an even start as both sides felt each other out early on, Arjen Robben causing the most problems for England, testing Joe Hart out and running at Micah Richards. England linked up well, Danny Welbeck dropping deep to aid play but Holland stood tall with De Jong and Van Bommel coming out on top in the midfield battle in the early stages.
New captain Scott Parker was making his presence felt, launching himself in front of two powerful shots which were goal bound. The game was majorly played in midfield in the first half an hour, and England had to make a change with Steven Gerrard being replaced by Daniel Sturridge. The Liverpool skipper had played 120 minutes on Sunday, and there was no need to take any risks on the midfielder.
England perhaps felt they had momentum as the first half came to a close, but Stekelenburg had nothing major to do in the Holland goal as the game reached the halfway point. James Milner replaced Gareth Barry at half-time, with Huntelaar and Schaars replacing Van Persie and Pieters for the away side.
Daniel Sturridge had been England’s brightest spark since coming on, and he forced Stekelenburg in to an early save in the second half, but the Roma number one got down well to push the shot away. But Holland weren’t playing the game lying down, England’s attacking football allowed space to open up for the visitors, and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar went close with a rasping 20-yard effort as the game began to stretch.
And the open game played right in to Holland’s hands when Arjen Robben picked the ball up unmarked inside his own half, running to the edge of the England box and firing the ball low beyond a sprawling Joe Hart.
England were on the back foot and Holland pounced straight away, Dirk Kuyt’s pinpoint cross finding Huntelaar who made it 2-0. Attention turned to the aftermath of the goal as Chris Smalling and Huntelaar lay sprawled on the pitch, both bleeding badly after a clash of heads, Smalling was stretchered off and replaced by fellow United defender Phil Jones, whilst Huntelaar also had to be replaced after just fifteen minutes, Twente’s Luuk De Jong taking his place.
During the stoppage, Stewart Downing also entered the fray replacing Adam Johnson, and almost had an instant impact, volleying wide from inside the box. England seemed to have lost their way slightly, but Sturridge missed a glorious chance when Leighton Baines’ miss-hit reached the Chelsea striker. He only managed to scuff it in to the hands of Stekelenburg.
Sunderland striker Fraizer Campbell came on for his senior debut with ten minutes to go, but the game was already beyond an England side struggling to cope with Holland’s counter attacks. It was time for some cheer when Gary Cahill of all people was put through, before turning inside and slotting the ball into the net to give the home crowd something to shout about. Replays showed the Chelsea defender may have been offside.
The goal rejuvenated England but Sturridge limped off after trying to get in the way of a Dirk Kuyt effort, Theo Walcott his replacement for the last couple of minutes. Four minutes of stoppage time proved enough time for England to grab an equaliser as Phil Jones found United team mate Ashley Young who dinked the ball beautifully over the onrushing Stekelenburg to level the scores in a dramatic turnaround.
The drama didn’t end there. In the 92nd minute Holland went straight up the other end, Emanuelson’s cross finally found its way through to Arjen Robben, the winger cutting inside and his shot took a crucial deflection off Cahill and Holland were once again in front in an enthralling match. The action ended there as Stuart Pearce’s first game ended in defeat, despite a valiant effort from the home side to come back from 2-0 down.
England: Hart, Richards, Cahill, Smalling (Jones 64), Baines, Gerrard (Sturridge 32 (Walcott 88)), Parker, Barry (Milner 46), Johnson (Downing 65), Welbeck (Campbell 80), Young. Subs: Green, Cole, Lescott, Carson.
Netherlands: Stekelenburg, Boulahrouz (Vlaar 82), Heitinga, Mathijsen, Pieters (Schaars 46), Van Bommel, De Jong, Robben, Sneijder (Emanuelson 76), Kuyt, van Persie (Huntelaar 46 (de Jong 64)). Subs: Krul, Strootman, Wijnaldum, Bruma, John, Narsingh.
Referee: Felix Brych (Germany)