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First-half strikes satisfy Dutch

Wednesday, 30 March 2005

[1] First-half goals from Romeo Castelen and Ruud van Nistelrooij earned a 2-0 win against Armenia that kept the Netherlands at the top of FIFA World Cup qualifying Group 1.

Czech challenge

[2] With the Czech Republic temporarily moving above the Dutch thanks to their 4-0 victory in Andorra earlier in the day, Marco van Basten's team knew that only three points at the Philips stadium in Eindhoven would be enough to return them to the summit. The home team made the perfect start as Castelen gave them an early lead, before Manchester United FC striker Van Nistelrooij effectively sealed the win just past the half-hour.

Late adjustment

[3] Van Basten was forced to change his team shortly before the match when Hamburger SV defender Khalid Boulahrouz pulled out with a hamstring injury. However, the Dutch scored after 38 seconds in Saturday's 2-0 win away to Romania, and also began at breakneck speed tonight, with the breakthrough not long delayed again.

Castelen celebrations

[4] To the delight of the home PSV Eindhoven captain Mark van Bommel was heavily involved as, from his third-minute corner, club-mate Philip Cocu - Saturday's early scorer - had a header blocked but Castelen was on hand to bundle in his first international goal from close range.

Shahgeldyan shot

[5] Undaunted, the visitors rallied and might have drawn level in the eleventh minute as Armen Shahgeldyan's shot from outside the penalty area was blocked by the legs of Netherlands goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.

Cool finish

[6] However, visiting goalkeeper Roman Berezovsky was by far the busier of the two custodians, but was powerless to prevent Van Nistelrooij doubling the advantage in the 34th minute. Again Van Bommel was at the heart of the move, Van Nistelrooij collecting his pass before rounding Berezovsky and rolling the ball into the empty net.

Further chances

[7] The Dutch might have increased their advantage in the second 45 minutes, Berezovsky doing well to deny Van Nistelrooij his second and the home side's third, while a Joris Mathijsen header was cleared off the goalline and Giovanni van Bronckhorst struck the crossbar with a long-range strike.

Romanian test

[8] The win was already assured, however, and Van Basten's players moved on to 16 points from six games, maintaining their one-point lead over the Czechs. Third-placed Romania are the Netherlands' next visitors, on 4 June, when Armenia - who stayed sixth - play F.Y.R. Macedonia, the side immediately above them.

Netherlands players celebrate scoring against Armenia