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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Russia into semis after 3-1 win over Dutch

BASEL (Reuters) - Russia grabbed an unexpected place in the Euro 2008 semi-finals with a thoroughly deserved 3-1 extra-time win over Netherlands on Saturday.

Coached by Dutchman Guus Hiddink, the Russians finished off their exhausted opponents with late goals from substitute Dmitry Torbinsky and playmaker Andrei Arshavin after the teams had finished level at 1-1 by the end of regular time.

The Russians will face the winners of Sunday's quarter-final between Italy and Spain for a place in the Vienna showpiece.

Russia had taken a deserved lead through Roman Pavlyuchenko 11 minutes into the second half but were pegged back by a Ruud van Nistelrooy header with just four minutes remaining.

But in the extra period Russia overran their opponents.

"I think technically we were better and tactically we filled the gaps we had to," said Hiddink.

"Mentally, I have to pay the team a big compliment. After we gave up the equaliser the team reacted superbly. Normally against a good team it's over then but we reacted superbly."

Facing a Dutch side that had stormed into the last eight with a perfect group stage record, the Russians refused from the start to play the role of underdogs.

However, it was the Dutch who created the better chances although they failed to produce the finishing that had seen them rip apart Italy and France in their opening two games.

They appeared to pay the price for their waywardness, and especially that of striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, in the second half when Pavlyuchenko opened the scoring.

Shaking off a defender, he ran onto a Sergei Semak cross before volleying a left-foot shot into the bottom corner.

With even the normally boisterous Dutch fans starting to despair, Van Nistelrooy finally came good.

Stealing in at the far post with just four minutes of regular time remaining, he headed home a swinging Wesley Sneijder free kick to hand his team a lifeline.


There was controversy in stoppage time when centre back Denis Kolodin, who had tested Van der Sar with several long-range shots, tangled with Wesley Sneijder on the byline.

The referee showed him a yellow card and then a red but after consulting his linesman decided to reverse his decision and the Russian defender stayed on the pitch.

The Dutch had another 30 minutes to try to break down their opponents but in the end they seemed too tired to take it.

Despite resting many first choice players for the final group stage win over Romania, they were outpaced in extra time.

"We didn't have the match under control," said coach Marco van Basten, who now takes over at Ajax Amsterdam. "Russia made it difficult for us. We had physical problems. The players didn't have the condition anymore at the end.

Hiddink's hard-running side were unlucky not to score in the 97th minute when Pavlyuchenko hit the bar.

But they did not have to wait long to restore their lead when Torbinsky stabbed home a cross at the far post from man of the match Arshavin five minutes later.

The excellent Arshavin finished off the Dutch himself in the 116th with a low shot that flew past Van der Sar with the aid of a slight deflection after he turned sharply in the area.

Original here