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Robben injury mars Dutch triumph

Saturday, 26 March 2005

By Paul-Daniel Zaharia at Giulesti stadium

[1] The Netherlands moved a point clear at the top of Group 1 with an excellent away performance in Bucharestalthough victory was marred by injury to Arjen Robben.

Quickfire start

[2] The visitors' goals summed up the blend of experience and youth that Dutch coach Marco van Basten hopes will take his side all the way to Germany next year. Veteran midfield player Phillip Cocu scored the first after 38 seconds before a late goal from 18-year-old Ryan Babel, the AFC Ajax starlet making his debut as a replacement for Robben, wrapped things up.

'Serious' injury

[3] Flying winger Robben was named in the starting eleven after getting 17 minutes for Chelsea FC in an English Premiership match last Saturday, his first appearance since fracturing a bone in his foot on 2 February. However, he lasted just 22 minutes tonight before leaving the pitch with a calf injury that Van Basten said afterwards "looks serious".

Pancu chance

[4] By then, the Netherlands were in front and in full control. PSV Eindhoven captain Cocu scored with a header from a first-minute corner and the only surprise was that the visitors did not add to their tally against an ambitious Romanian side whose best chance of the half fell to Daniel Pancu, only for Edwin van der Saar to save.

Ilie close

[5] Ruud van Nistelrooij nearly scored a second for the Dutch just after the half-hour mark but Romania hung on until half-time. Roared on by terrific home support, they were a different proposition after the break and could have equalised on 55 minutes when Adrian Ilie hit the crossbar with a header. However, the Dutch also had their moments, particularly through Dirk Kuijt and Van Nistelrooij, but both times Bogdan Lobont was in the way.

Fast break

[6] Babel finally made it two five minutes from time with a low shot after a brilliant counterattacking move. The Dutch move on to 13 points, one ahead of the Czech Republic - who were 4-3 winners against Finland - and three ahead of tonight's opponents. Romania go to F.Y.R. Macedonia on Wednesday knowing victory is vital to stay in touch with the Dutch and Czechs, who are in action the same night against Armenia and Andorra respectively.

Netherlands celebrate after scoring their second goal