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Netherlands scale group summit

Wednesday, 17 November 2004

[1] The Netherlands will end 2004 on top of FIFA World Cup qualifying Group 1 after easing to victory against Andorra in Barcelona.

Trio score

[2] Phillip Cocu opened the scoring after 21 minutes and Arjen Robben - who had made the first and was to create the third - doubled the lead later in the half with a strike from the edge of the penalty area. Wesley Sneijder sealed a comfortable win 12 minutes from time.

Van Galen landmark

[3] Coach Marco van Basten brought in Barry van Galen to replace the injured Rafael van der Vaart in midfield, and at 34 he became the oldest player to make his debut for the Dutch national team. Andorra, meanwhile, went into the fixture still flushed from last month's victory against F.Y.R. Macedonia - their first win in a competitive senior international.

Disallowed effort

[4] Robben had the first chance for the visitors but after a solo run past two defenders his shot missed the target. Ildefons Lima had the ball in the net for Andorra 13 minutes in, but he was ruled to have fouled Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar in an aerial encounter.

Dutch goals

[5] Eight minutes later Cocu had an effort which did count, heading in Robben's free-kick. The in-form Chelsea FC winger then registered a goal of his own just after the half-hour with a shot from the edge of the box.

Sneijder clincher

[6] On 36 minutes Ruud van Nistelrooij left the pitch with a hip injury, replaced by Roy Makaay, and although the Dutch dominated from that point onwards, they had to wait to score their remaining goal. Robben was again the provider, Sneijder the finisher with a fierce shot.

Close race

[7] Van Basten's unbeaten side now lead Romania, held today by Armenia, on goal difference - with the two meeting in their next Group 1 fixture on 26 March. The Czech Republic and Finland are just a point behind the leading pair, while Andorra can go fifth on 9 February if they gain an away victory at F.Y.R. Macedonia.

Marco van Basten's side prevailed