World cham­pi­ons hum­bled

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FRONT PAGE - HUGO LOPEZ AT ARENA FONTE NOVA

MASTERS: Ar­jen Robben is mobbed af­ter cap­ping a mem­o­rable night against the hold­ers. World Cup,

ROBIN VAN PER­SIE and Ar­jen Robben in­spired the Nether­lands to a stun­ning, un­think­able 5-1 win over de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Spain in a thrilling en­counter that will go down in World Cup his­tory.

The Dutch avenged their de­feat by the same op­po­nents in the 2010 fi­nal in out­ra­geous style, with four unan­swered goals in an ir­re­sistible sec­ond-half dis­play in Sal­vador.

Van Per­sie and Robben scored two apiece, with each man’s first a mi­nor clas­sic in its own right. De­fender Ste­fan de Vrij scored his side’s third.

Vi­cente Del Bosque’s side, who also lost their opener against Switzer­land four years ago, had ac­tu­ally taken the lead through

Xabi Alonso’s dis­puted penalty, a lead they held un­til Van Per­sie’s in­stinc­tive fly­ing header lev­elled mat­ters just be­fore the break.

Af­ter that, the Nether­lands were ram­pant, lay­ing a big marker down for the re­main­der of the tour­na­ment and rais­ing the prospect of a Brazil-Spain sec­ond-round tie.

In the be­gin­ning, the Dutch were be­ing dic­tated to by Xavi, An­dres Ini­esta, David Silva and Xabi Alonso, with Ron Vlaar pro­duc­ing at least two des­per­ate blocks.

The con­tro­ver­sial penalty fol­lowed in the 26th minute, start­ing with Xavi’s beau­ti­fully weighted pass for Costa. He surged into the area and took two touches be­fore turn­ing De Vrij, who ap­peared in real time to trip him. By the time Xabi Alonso had buried the spot-kick, re­plays showed Costa ap­par­ently ini­ti­at­ing con­tact.

Van Per­sie lev­elled, read­ing the space per­fectly as he leapt to head Da­ley Blind’s hang­ing cross high over the help­less Casil­las, be­fore a piece of Robben magic gave them a sec­ond-half lead. Van Per­sie’s chip picked out his team-mate, but he had plenty still to do as he con­trolled the ball bril­liantly with the out­side of his boot be­fore turn­ing Ger­ard Pique and Ser­gio Ramos, con­vert­ing with a slight de­flec­tion off the lat­ter.

There was no hold­ing them back now, De Vrij mak­ing it 3-1 from Snei­jder’s curl­ing free-kick.

And the pace only in­creased, Silva’s close-range fin­ish chalked off for off­side be­fore the Nether­lands ex­tended their lead to three.

Casil­las was wholly cul­pa­ble this time, turn­ing a harm­less back pass into one dread­ful touch and an open goal for the alert Van Per­sie.

Robben com­pleted Spain’s mis­ery with 10 min­utes to go, col­lect­ing Snei­jder’s pass and then re­duc­ing Casil­las and his de­fend­ers to a floun­der­ing mess as he made room for an em­phatic fin­ish.

They might have scored more, to­wards the end. They had al­ready made a hell of a state­ment.

FLY­ING WITH­OUT WINGS: Robin van Per­sie launches him­self to get on the end of Da­ley

Pic­ture: Getty

Blind’s sublime 50-yard pass and head the ball past the help­less Iker Casil­las to spark a mem­o­rable night for the Dutch.

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