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Mario at the double

Gomez stars as Germany edge out Netherlands

Germany moved to within an ace of qualifying for the quarter-finals at EURO 2012 in Poland and Ukraine on Wednesday evening, following up a 1-0 opening day victory over Portugal with a 2-1 success against the Netherlands to go top of Group B on six points. In stark contrast, pre-tournament joint favourites the Dutch are staring disaster in the face after losing both their games so far.

Bayern star Mario Gomez was the man of the match in Kharkiv and is now up to three goals for the tournament after scoring both goals for his country on 24 and 38 minutes, sending the white-clad sections of the 36,000 crowd into raptures. The Dutch finally fought back late in the game and Robin van Persie pulled one back after 73 minutes, but the Germans held on for the three points. Joachim Löw’s side need only a draw from their final group fixture against Denmark on Sunday to qualify as group winners, but the Dutch must beat Portugal by at least two goals and hope arch-rivals Germany despatch the Danes for the men in orange to remain in the tournament.

Seven Bayern men for Germany

“Holland were unbelievably strong in attack, and it was very, very tight right to the end,” said match-winner Gomez after a game during which the temperature barely dropped below 30 degrees Celsius. “We’re delighted we’ve won. It wasn’t easy and we had to work very hard,” commented Bastian Schweinsteiger, provider of two glorious assists for Gomez’ brace.

Löw made no changes to the team which beat the Portuguese and started with seven FCB men, with Toni Kroos again deployed as a late substitute. For the men in orange, Arjen Robben began the match alongside former Bayern captain Mark van Bommel.

Müller and Schweinsteiger set up Gomez

Once play got underway in the blistering evening heat, Van Persie tested Manuel Neuer early on, but up the other end, Mesut Özil volleyed against the post, keeper Maarten Stekelenburg grabbing the loose ball at the second attempt. Bert van Marwijk’s side had a slight edge until the opener, superbly created by Thomas Müller and Schweinsteiger, and clinically finished by Gomez.

Holger Badstuber somehow failed to put away a gilt-edged chance on 37 minutes, directing a free header from a corner straight at Stekelenburg, but the Dutch shot-stopper was beaten a minute later when Gomez claimed a fourth brace for his country with a dipping cross-shot.

Boateng out of Denmark clash

After the restart, Van Marwijk went for broke with the introduction of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Rafael van der Vaart, Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt joining the fray later on. The Germans maintained their grip for a good 20 minutes but began to tire, and Van Persie’s well-taken goal made for a tight finish, which Löw’s side survived thanks to a mix of good fortune and fine defending.

“Overall, our shape was good. In the second half, we didn’t invest enough in the game and it was tight for a while,” said Jérôme Boateng, who collected a second yellow card of the tournament and is now suspended for the Denmark clash. “It hurts, but the important thing is that we won,” Boateng continued.

“It was tense and exciting. We’ve taken six points off two top-class teams, and we can’t ask for more than that,” summarised Gomez. “We’ve taken the second step, but we also want to beat Denmark. That’s the standard we’ve set ourselves,” stated Schweinsteiger.