Netherlands 1-2 England: Late winner breaks Oranje hearts

Wout Weghorst is stunned by England's late winner. Photo: ANP/Koen van Weel

The Netherlands’ hopes of winning Euro 2024 were snuffed out in the cruellest fashion as they went down to an injury-time goal after fighting their way back into the semi-final against England.

Substitute Ollie Watkins eluded Stefan de Vrij’s challenge to turn and shoot low into the bottom corner just as the match looked to be heading for extra-time, with the Dutch enjoying the upper hand.

Oranje had taken a sixth-minute lead with a blistering shot by Xavi Simons, before England equalised through a highly contentious penalty when Denzel Dumfries was deemed to have clipped Harry Kane after the striker blasted a shot wide.

“As extra time approached we felt that we were the stronger team, which makes it extra hard to swallow that the goal came so late,” Dumfries said after the game.

The defender had no complaints about the penalty decision that allowed Kane to level the scores from the spot, following an intervention by the video referee.

“I went to block the shot but I caught him, there was contact, so I knew that the penalty could be given,” Dumfries said. “It wasn’t deliberate, it was a split-second thing.”

Head coach Ronald Koeman said the manner of the defeat was a bitter pill to swallow.

“We played a semi-final and felt we came very close, so the disappointment is huge at the moment, but I think everybody can be very proud of this team and the supporters who turned out in such numbers,” he told NOS. “I think it’s been a great tournament.”

Koeman made one change to the starting line-up from the quarter-final against Turkey, replacing Steven Bergwijn on the right with Borussia Dortmund’s Donyell Malen.

Early goal

England started brighter, with Bukayo Sako testing the defence with an early cross, but it was the Dutch who took the lead with their first attack.

Xavi Simons hustled Declan Rice off the ball and charged forward into the penalty area, before unleashing a diagonal shot that whistled past goalkeeper Jordan Pickford into the top corner.

England regrouped and came close to equalising when Kane dropped deep and tested Bart Verbruggen with a low drive that the goalkeeper punched away at full stretch.

Saka was involved again minutes later when he held off the entire Dutch defence before trying a shot as he was closed down. The ball was half-cleared into the path of Kane, who cracked a shot over the crossbar under pressure from Denzel Dumfries.

VAR penalty review

Referee Felix Zwayer was called over to review the decision by the VAR panel and pointed to the penalty spot after deciding that Dumfries had fouled Kane in the follow-through. Kane dispatched the penalty low past Verbruggen’s outstretched right hand, and England were level.

The team in white were in the ascendancy, with Saka continuing to cause headaches on the right, Kobbie Mainoo imperious in central midfield and Phil Foden, anonymous so far in the tournament, looking a constant threat around the penalty area.

Mainoo threaded a through ball to Foden, who danced away from Nathan Aké and Virgil van Dijk before slipping a shot underneath Verbruggen, but Dumfries stopped the ball an inch before it crossed the line and cleared it to safety.

Dumfries was involved at the other end a few minutes later when a corner from the right was swung back into the penalty area and he met it with a header that cannoned back off the crossbar.

Oranje pinned back

It was a rare excursion upfield for Oranje, who were being pinned back in their own half. Foden went close again with a spectacular effort from outside the area that beat Verbruggen but smacked against the post.

Memphis Depay’s tournament ended 12 minutes before half-time when he went down clutching his hamstring. Koeman resisted the temptation to bring on Wout Weghorst, opting to shore up the overstretched midfield with Joey Veerman and push Malen up front.

Mainoo tried his first shot shortly before half-time, but it was blocked by Aké, while the Dutch concentrated on slowing the pace in midfield as they tried to get a grip on the game.

Malen made way for Wout Weghorst at the start of the second half as Oranje continued to steady the ship in a quiet opening spell.

Oranje chances

England found themselves with far less space as the Dutch players closed them down with purpose, but it took until the 65th minute for the first clear-cut chance to arrive. Veerman curled a free kick into the penalty area that Van Dijk poked towards goal, only to be denied by Pickford’s dive.

Gakpo almost broke clear after running on to a smart pass from Simons, but was cut out by Kyle Walker, before Simons hit a shot into the ground that Pickford was able to claim comfortably.

England went straight up the other end and had the ball in the net when Saka poked in Walker’s cross, but the defender had timed his run a fraction too early.

Weghorst then claimed a penalty when his shot came off the arm of Marc Guéhi, but the referee waved the appeal away.

The match seemed to be destined for extra time, but with the clock ticking down Cole Palmer found Watkins, his fellow substitute, with a perfect pass from the right.

The striker was tightly marked by De Vrij, who had had a near-flawless game to this point, but managed to turn and find room for a shot that squeezed between the defender’s legs and past Verbruggen to nestle in the bottom corner and send England to the final.

They will start as second favourites in Berlin against Spain, who beat France 2-1 in the first semi-final with goals from 16-year-old Lamine Yamal and Dani Olmo.

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