Match Report: Netherlands vs Bulgaria European U19 Championship 10th July 2017
Drab Netherlands squeeze through to semis
Bulgaria’s first ever goal at the finals of the U19 European Championship in the form of a Georgi Rusev header saved a constellation point Angel Stoykov’s men, as the Dutch qualified for the Semi-Finals yesterday in Gori.
Many felt that Bulgaria were unlucky to be beaten and eliminated by Germany in Match Day Two and there was a real defiant sense of seeking revenge from the boys in green and white. However, it was to be the Dutch who started the game on the front foot and came close in the first 15 minutes through a Rodney Kongolo effort which was well saved by Daniel Naumov. As the dull encounter dragged on, The Netherlands continued to have the edge over their opponents, as Teun Koopmeiners fired wide from range.
Maarten Stekelenburg’s Dutch side had been in fine form coming into the tie after overcoming Germany 4-1 in their opening game, but narrowly losing their last game to Keith Downing’s rampant England. Whereas, Bulgaria entered the tie off the back of successive losses to that Three Lions side and a rather misfortunate loss to Germany. However, as the half-time whistle blew the two sides were deadlocked at 0-0 in a far from entertaining clash.
The second period would bring plenty more in the way of entertainment and clear-cut chances, as the Dutch looked to consolidate their Semi-Final place. However, it was Bulgaria who were making the attacking changes that the game needed, as they brought on attacking midfielder Ivaylo Klimentov. Holland made no such changes at the break, but did eventually find an opening goal in the 50th minute. The goal will go down as one of the best solo-efforts of the tournament, as Kongolo followed a dazzling run down the left flank with a superb finish into the near corner to beat the skipper Naumov. The Dutch now had the cushion of a lead when they only needed a point and a prayer to qualify for the last four and the news of England’s lead over Germany did nothing to hurt them either.
The Bulgarian youngsters had nothing to lose and launched a wave of attack at a disciplined Dutch defence in search of a leveller after the goal. However, the strongly defensive Netherlands side was to be breached just five minutes after they took the lead, as Rusev headed home for 1-1. A beautiful wide free-kick was swung in by Levski man Georgi Yanev, leaving the 19-year-old forward to head Bulgaria level. The rest of the tie saw a defensive Netherlands shut up shop with the game fizzling out after showing such promise with two goals. As Serbia referee Srdjan Jovanovic blew the full-time whistle at The Tengiz Burjanadze Stadioni, The Netherlands had qualified for the Semi-Finals of the 2017 European U19 Championship with the lowest points total out the four teams that made it through from group A and group B.
After a stellar qualification campaign, Bulgaria will leave Georgia bitterly disappointed with their efforts throughout the finals. However, for the Dutch, a Semi-Final tie with group A toppers Portugal awaits in two days-time.