For the third time in eight days, the Netherlands were sloppy in the attacking third, and a little bit lazy, at times, when tracking back in defense. Unlike in their previous two contests, however, Holland produced goals on either side of the halftime break, all the while keeping Slovakia off the scoreboard for a workmanlike 2-0 win. Once again, however, the significant story for the Dutch following the friendly was potential injury scares, this time to multiple players. Perhaps keeping the guys in some sort of protective bubble up until June 9 would be best.
Netherlands 2-0 Slovakia: Down, up and down again
It took just one minute for things to get ugly for the hosts. Wilfred Bouma and John Heitinga clashed heads while in the defensive third, with Bouma clearly on the worse end of the collision. While he remained in the game up until halftime, Bouma never seemed to clear his head. TV cameras showed Bouma walking out of the dressing room nearly an hour after the incident, and the player still had a dazed look on his face at that time. It was later reported that Bouma was taken to the hospital for a scan. No update on his condition is available as of the typing of this sentence.
Things improved for Holland seven minutes later. Ibrahim Afellay beat Peter Pekarik down the left wing before playing a cross into the box. Kornel Salata couldn't get out of the way in time, and the ball bounced off of the defender and into his own goal. Holland controlled much of the action during the following 20 minutes before losing a little bit of hustle and luster. A shaky back line, one that was visibly missing Joris Mathijsen (injured in Holland's 2-1 loss to Bulgaria), was beaten several times by an attack that, if I'm going to be honest, wasn't all that spectacular. Slovakia were robbed by the woodwork at the half-hour mark, and goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg made a clutch save two minutes from the break. The Dutch were up 1-0 heading into halftime, but they were hardly dominant in the game's first 45 minutes.
Netherlands 2-0 Slovakia: When the game changed
Robin van Persie had himself a fine evening, nearly finding the back of the net on two separate occasions. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar coming on for Van Persie in the 68th minute proved to be just the spark Holland needed, however, and the Dutch produced a goal 15 minutes from time that put Slovakia away for good. Huntelaar ran into a wall of defenders on the outskirts of the penalty area, and he rolled the ball toward the right portion of the penalty area for Rafael Van der Vaart. The Tottenham Hotspur ace took a touch before firing a far-post strike that landed into the corner of the net. The goal removed all hope for the visitors, and Slovakia played to not surrender a third goal up until the final whistle.
Netherlands 2-0 Slovakia: Concerns
Wesley Sneijder limped off the pitch after a tackle that occurred four minutes into the second half. He attempted to remain in the match following the incident, but had to be subbed off minutes later by the previously mentioned Van der Vaart. Ibrahim Afellay also seemed to be dealing with a minor injury issue when he was taken off ten minutes from time. Staying fit is the name of the game when playing friendlies this close to the European Championship. Thus far, Holland are losing that game, and losing it in a big way.
Netherlands 2-0 Slovakia: Overall
It was, in short, a "could have been better, could have been worse" performance from Holland. Just as this past Saturday, Dutch fans will be checking news reports regarding the health of a key man. Losing Sneijder, Bouma and/or Mathijsen for any amount of time could doom the Dutch before Euro 2012 even begins. Holland's final warmup of this makeshift exhibition season takes place this Saturday. They will be hosting Northern Ireland.
Stay safe out there, guys.
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- Ibrahim Afellay