The Netherlands exploded for five goals on Sunday, beating a 10-man Russian side 5-1 and all but guaranteeing its spot in the knockout phase of the UEFA U-21 Championship.
Georginio Wijnaldum, Luuk de Jong, Ola John, Danny Hoesen and Leroy Fer all scored for the Dutch, who took advantage of a questionable red card given to Nikita Chicherin and scored four goals in the second half.
John nearly set up a goal within two minutes for Netherlands, but his dangerous cross was between two targets and sent out of play by Russia. The Dutch failed to do anything with the corner.
Alan Dzagoev nearly gave Russia a 1-0 lead in the 15th minute. Fedor Smolov smartly stepped over a through ball, allowing Dzagoev to receive the pass atop the box. But his right-footed shot skittered past the left post, ending the threat.
As Christopher Atkins of ESPN noted, Russia wasn't going to simply roll over in this game:
Dzagoev goes close for Russia. Netherlands aren't going to have it easy this evening.— Christopher Atkins (@Chris_Elastico) June 9, 2013
The Dutch continued to press ahead, and Russian keeper Nikolai Zabolotny continued to play well. He punched away a John cross in the 16th minute and followed up with a nice save on a Wijnaldum drive a minute later after a Kevin Strootman diagonal freed up the winger out wide.
De Jong came this close to giving the Netherlands the lead in the 22nd minute, but his header off an Adam Maher corner hit the right post.
Russia didn't play shy in this contest, however, and gave the Dutch back four plenty of problems when they regained possession. Dzagoev presented a consistent threat for much of the first half and Russia looked very creative in the attack. But the final ball wasn't quite there for the underdogs.
But for all of Russia's promising play, the Dutch were just better in the first half and and they eventually took the lead, as a beautiful strike from outside the box on the counter-attack by Wijnaldum beat a sprawling Zabolotny.
It was truly a picture-perfect shot.
Russia's comeback prospects became a whole lot dimmer after the controversial red-card decision. Chicherin was sent off for a late challenge from behind on Maher. It was certainly worthy of a card, but questionable if red should have been the color chosen.
The Dutch almost took immediate advantage of Russia's one-man deficit. Ricardo van Rhijn's cross into the box was met by Maher, whose volley hit the top of the bar and bounced clear of danger. It was a close miss but wonderful technique from the Dutch midfielder.
The Dutch would take advantage in the 61st minute and double their lead. Marco van Ginkel's lovely cross found de Jong on the back post and the striker didn't disappoint, heading back across the face of goal and past Zabolotny.
But 10-man Russia weren't going to go quietly into the night, cutting the deficit in half in the 65th minute. Georgi Schennikov's cross was met by Dzagoev's head and the striker once again hit the post, but this time, Denis Cheryshev was there to scoop up the rebound and send the ball into the net.
It was a goal that Russia deserved given much of its quality build-up play in the attack throughout the game, and the resilience shown after going a man and two goals down was impressive from the young squad.
But the Netherlands wasn't to be denied on this day. John got the goal he deserved in the 69th minute when de Jong's flick-on header sent him racing into space down the left flank. His cheeky chip beat Zabolotny, who tried to cut John's angle by rushing forward, but did so in vain.
The good times kept on rolling for Netherlands in the 82nd minute. Second-half substitute Hoesen, in the game for all of a minute, was played into space on the right side of the box by Fer and knew what to do with it, chipping a ball past Zabolotny that a second Russian defender couldn't clear in time.
Fer's goal in stoppage time wrapped things up, as John sent a low cross into the box and Fer blasted the shot home. Zabolotny managed to get a hand to this one, but the ball was hit with enough pace to deflect into the net.
All in all, it was an unjust result for Russia, who stood absolutely no chance after going a man down against a superior Netherlands side, but showed some promise in the first half. With eight goals in two games, however, the Dutch have let the rest of the field know in no uncertain terms that they are a team to be feared.
Men of the Match: Netherlands' Attacking Trio
John, Wijnaldum and de Jong were fabulous in this game, each scoring a goal (de Jong also had two assists, while John had one) and regularly causing problems for Russia's defense. It would be difficult to pick between the three of them, as the two wide men were a constant threat, while de Jong was in the middle of every attack.
Expect the trio to give Spain plenty of problems when these teams meet.
Who was Man of the Match?
The Dutch will face Spain on Wednesday having all but clinched a place in the knockout phase and with a chance to win the group.
Russia isn't totally eliminated yet, but the team will need Germany to beat Spain, will need to beat Germany and hope the Dutch beat Spain. Oh, and Russia will need to hope it comes out on the top of the tiebreakers too, which seems like a long shot at best considering it now has a minus-four goal differential in this tournament.