Porto Alegre: The Netherlands beat Australia 3-2 in a sensational World Cup Group B match featuring stunning goals and non-stop action on Wednesday, as the 2010 runners-up made it two wins out of two, following their opening demolition of Spain.
Dutch winger Arjen Robben opened the scoring in the 20th minute when he ran from the halfway line before tucking the ball beyond Mat Ryan, for his third goal of the tournament.
Tim Cahill replied immediately, however, by crashing a fantastic long range volley into the roof of the net, for what will be a strong contender for the goal of the tournament. Australia took a shock 2-1 lead with a 54th-minute Mile Jedinak penalty after Oliver Bozanic hammered the ball straight at Daryl Janmaat’s arm but Robin van Persie levelled with his sharply-taken third of the tournament, four minutes later.
Substitute Memphis Depay won it for the Dutch in the 68th minute, when his low long-range shot somehow escaped the diving Ryan and went just inside the post.
Louis van Gaal went into this game with an unchanged line-up for the first time since taking charge of The Netherlands, but any hopes he had of his team picking up where they left off against Spain went in vain.
Australia were the better team by a distance in a first half, that saw two outstanding goals, and some terrific wing play by the enterprising Mathew Leckie.
He caused the Dutch all sorts of problems and created the match’s first genuine opportunity after 16 minutes, when he skipped away from his marker and picked out Mark Bresciano at the edge of the box.
The Qatar-based midfielder was quickly closed down by defenders, though, and saw his shot deflected behind for a corner.
A goal would have been what Australia deserved, but minutes later they found themselves behind after a lightning Dutch breakaway.
The goal was all down to the speed and quality of Robben, with the Bayern Munich star spinning away from Alex Wilkinson on the halfway line, racing powerfully towards goal and angling a precise left-foot shot into the far corner of the net.
It was a brilliant strike — one of the best of the tournament so far — and yet it was to be bettered within a few seconds at the other end.
This was a very different kind of goal, with Cahill allowing a long ball to drop over his shoulder before smashing a first-time volley in off the underside of the crossbar — and this with his supposedly weaker left foot.
The Dutch, having changed their formation due in part to an injury to Bruno Martins Indi, began the second half more brightly and forced an excellent early save from Maty Ryan through Wesley Sneijder.
However, they were to find themselves behind just eight minutes after the restart when Mile Jedinak coolly slotted home from the penalty spot, sending Jasper Cillessen the wrong way after Daryl Janmaat had been penalised for a handball.
But Australia’s lead lasted barely for a few minutes, with Robin Van Persie equalising.
There was never any doubt once the Oranje’s record scorer sprung the Aussie offside trap, with Van Persie able to set his sights before crashing a left-foot shot into the roof of the net.
Ultimately, the thrilling end-to-end game was decided in the space of a minute midway through the second half, when the Dutch scored just seconds after the Socceroos had missed a gilt-edged chance.
Tommy Oar was the guilty party, opting to cross for Leckie, who could only chest into the arms of Cillessen, rather than go for goal himself from an unmarked position inside the box.
That decision was punished in the very next attack, when substitute Depay turned, advanced and beat Ryan from 25 yards with a low, swerving right-foot shot.
The Netherlands: Jasper Cillessen, Ron Vlaar, Stefan de Vrij, Bruno Martins Indi (Memphis Depay, 45), Daley Blind, Nigel Dejong, Daryl Janmaat, Jonathan de Guzman (Georginio Wijnaldum, 78), Robin van Persie (Jeremain Lens, 87), Wesley Sniejder, Arjen Robben.
Australia: Mat Ryan, Jason Davidson, Tim Cahill (Ben Halloran, 69), Matthew Spiranovic, Mathew Leckie, Tommy Oar (Adam Taggart, 77), Mile Jedinak, Matt McKay, Ryan McGowan, Alex Wilkinson, Mark Bresciano (Oliver Bozniac, 51).
Man of the Match: Arjen Robben
Referee: Djamel Haimoudi (Algeria) (Agencies)