Despite a late revival from the Netherlands, Germany got the upper hand in this prestigious rivalry as they dampened Holland’s hopes of reaching the last eight, thanks to a clinical performance from striker Mario Gomez.
Needing a win, the Netherlands started off in an aggressive manner, as they pushed people forward to support lone striker Robin van Persie.
And within the 7th minute, Holland looked likely to take a shock lead as a great lofted ball by Mark van Bommel fell perfectly into the path of van Persie, but unfortunately the Oranje striker hit his shot straight at Manuel Neuer.
However, it would be foolish to underestimate the power of this German side, and just minutes later, a long throw in by Jerome Boateng was headed clear to the feet of Mesut Ozil, whose volley dipped onto the post and fell into the hands of Maarten Stekelenburg. A huge slice of luck for the Netherlands as it was a great effort by the Madrid trickster.
The Dutch luck was not to last long though as the German’s provided a moment of sheer class on the field in Kharkiv. A simple loft up field by Neuer was collected by Thomas Muller, and some nice inter change between the German front line left midfield maestro Bastian Schweinsteiger in acres of space.
You’d have thought that Bert van Marwijk would have prepared his team against the strength that Schweinsteiger possesses beforehand, as when left in space he proved what magic he can provide, as a perfect through ball to Gomez was converted by the Bayern front man, as his deft turn and powerful strike gave the Holland defence absolutely no chance.
The Germans nearly doubled their lead moments later after a stunning free kick into the box by Ozil found Holger Badstuber in acres of space just yards from the goal, but his header was straight at Stekelenburg, and Germany were unable to capitalise on their pressure.
But this is Germany we are talking about, and Gomez got his second of the game after 38 minutes, making finishing look so simple. The trio of Gomez, Muller and Schweinsteiger combined again, resulting in Gomez striking a superb effort from a tight angle, thanks to another through ball from Schweinsteiger.
It seemed a case of damage limitation for the Dutch now, and it was nearly 3-0 before half time as another free-kick was deflected off Arjen Robben, nearly catching out Stekelenburg as it dipped just under the crossbar. Fortunately for the Netherlands, the Ajax keeper did well to palm it away.
A double substitution at half time which saw the entrance of Rafael van der Vaart and Klaas Jan Huntelaar breathed a sense of anticipation into the game, as the Netherlands knew a win was a must.
And with their pressure came the inevitable German counter attack, and the third goal nearly came through Mats Hummels, who darted through the Dutch defence, before his two attempts were saved by Stekelenburg.
Van Persie, now played as a right winger, looked far more dangerous and nearly narrowed the deficit after a low ball by Robben found the Arsenal striker on the edge of the box. His first time shot looked to be destined for the bottom corner, but another great save from Neuer denied the goal.
The breakthrough for Holland finally came in the 73rd minute, as van Persie turned Hummels easily, darting forward before striking a venomous effort which went through Badstuber’s legs before nestling in the bottom corner.
Unfortunately, the grandstand finish expected by most never arrived as Germany held out well to gain a valuable three points, which all but secured qualification to the last eight of the European Championship’s.