ENGLAND 2 vs HOLLAND 3
CARETAKER manager Stuart Pearce insists he can still lead England to success at the summer’s European Championship, despite Holland running amok on his audition at Wembley last night.
The second of two outstanding Arjen Robben goals earned the Dutch victory in stoppage time, after Pearce’s men had staged an unlikely two-goal fightback, through defender Gary Cahill and forward Ashley Young, in the last five minutes.
But that climax masked an impotent display from England, whose inexperienced defence was exposed with ease seemingly whenever Holland chose.
It did little to foster the belief that Pearce – nicknamed Psycho – will be retained by the Football Association, but he maintained afterwards that his belief he could steer the squad through Euro 2012 remained unshaken by defeat.
“You can never guarantee any results,” he said. “If we had come away from here 2-2 there might have been a better feel about the place. But I’ll be the same man tomorrow morning as I was this morning; it won’t affect my mentality in any way.
“I feel I’d be confident taking the squad to the Euros, without a doubt.”
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard lasted just over half an hour before being taken off as a precaution, although Pearce insisted injury doubts had not influenced his shock decision to make Spurs midfielder Scott Parker, a man with 79 fewer caps, skipper instead.
A pair of typically committed Scott Parker blocks, selected as captain ahead of Steven Gerrard, who lasted just 32 minutes, were among the scant highlights until the 57th minute, when Holland and Robben flexed their formidable attacking muscles and the visitors scored twice in a heartbeat.
First, Robben capped a rapier-like 60-yard run with a low drive that skimmed through Chris Smalling’s legs and found Joe Hart’s bottom-right corner. Then substitute Klaas-Jan Huntelaar bravely beat Smalling to Dirk Kuyt’s cross and powered a header past Hart.