Netherlands – Soviet Union
The Netherlands and the Soviet Union were up against each other only nine months after they had clashed in the final of the European Championships in West Germany. The Dutch had gained an impressive 2-0 win then through goals from their two greatest attacking stars in Gullit and van Basten, and the win had been the perfect revenge after the 1-0 defeat in the group stages against the same opponent. This friendly took place in Eindhoven, and the home of PSV, the 1988 winners of the European Cup, staged an international for the first time in almost three years.
Both teams had enjoyed a sound start to the qualification, with the Netherlands having beaten Wales at home and drawn against rivals West Germany in Munich, whereas the Soviets had perhaps disappointed result wise in their first qualifier: a 1-1 draw in Iceland. They had, however, followed that up with a 2-0 home win against Austria. Both the hosts and the visitors had played once since the turn of the year, with the Netherlands running out 2-0 winners in Israel, whilst the USSR had triumphed 2-1 away to Bulgaria. This was the fifth encounter between the two, and the Netherlands had two wins to the Soviets’ solitary.
Netherlands team news
Legendary Dutch manager Rinus Michels had been replaced by Thijs Libregts after the success at the European Championships. Libregts had just been working for four years in Greece with three different clubs, having signed off finishing eighth with Olympiakos. His record so far for the national team read two wins, a draw, and a 1-0 defeat away to Italy in a November friendly. Their early January win in Israel had seen a couple of players make their debuts, a few players appearing for only the second time in the national team jersey, but six regulars from the previous summer had also featured from kick-off. Against the Soviet Union, Libregts had again opted for the blend of experience and players of lesser international stature.
He would thrust two debutants into the fray from kick-off, and of these two most attention would be given to ‘keeper Theo Snelders, who was having an excellent first campaign abroad, in Scotland with Aberdeen, virtually closing the gap left behind by Jim Leighton. The Netherlands’ regular goalkeeper, Hans van Breukelen, had been ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury (sustaining the injury 5 January in an indoor tournament), and in fact also second choice Joop Hiele was injured. With the qualifier against West Germany only a month away, it was expected that the one between the sticks against the Soviet Union also would be their no. 1 in that all-important match. The two most likely candidates were Snelders and Stanley Menzo (Ajax), and Libregts gave the nod to the Aberdeen man. He had seen Snelders in action for Aberdeen, and declared to media that his progress was evident, saying: “There’s a personality in goal now. Snelders has become a man.” (World Soccer, March 1989) Moreover, Menzo was, in the words of Libregts, out of form, and he picked Edward Metgod (Haarlem) as his stand-in goalkeeper.
There was also a first cap for central defender Graeme Rutjes from Mechelen, who was only a few days away from his 29th birthday. Another defender from Belgian Mechelen, Wim Hofkens, would start at left-back for only his second cap, whilst Twente’s exciting winger Peter Huistra was given the nod ahead of him down the left flank. These four had only seven internationals between them, but then there were PSV Eindhoven aces Ronald Koeman and Gerald Vanenburg, and not least the dazzling AC Milan trio of Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten. So Oranje were not short in quality, even if they were without regular ‘keeper Hans van Breukelen, trusted defender Berry van Aerle and midfielders such as Jan Wouters and Erwin Koeman, the latter the older of the Koeman brothers, who had been injured shortly before the game and replaced by Fred Rutten. Also, there was no Wim Kieft in the line-up.
Soviet Union team news
The visitors were still under Kiev supremo Valery Lobanovsky, who was doubling up as manager at both club and international level. Always favouring his Dinamo players, he had brought five of them to this particular starting line-up. Midfield ace Aleksandr Zavarov was by now trying to establish himself in Turin with Juventus, and obviously a former Dinamo Kiev player too. Lobanovsky had picked three Russians, of which goalkeeper and captain Rinat Dasayev was the most capped player in the starting eleven with his tally of 85. The two other players from Moscow (Dasayev had moved abroad to play in Spain after the European Championships) were the two internationally most inexperienced performers: Defender Sergey Gorlukovich won his sixth cap, midfielder Aleksandr Borodyuk his second. The visitors’ midfield also saw the presence of two Dinamo Minsk aces in Andrey Zygmantovich and the perennial Sergey Aleinikov. The absent Kiev trio of Igor Belanov, Aleksey Mikhaylichenko and Vladimir Bessonov had paved the way for others to make their mark. By now, the former Dinamo Tbilisi contingent were nowhere to be seen. The influence of the Georgian republic’s once so proud team had since long begun to wane. From a total of 18 (a drastically high number) 1988 Soviet internationals, only Tengiz Sulakvelidze had represented the Tbilisi club, and the great Aleksandr Chivadze had played his final international back in ’87.
It was worth noting that a couple of the visiting players had good memories from a previous visit to Eindhoven: During the 1985/86 season’s UEFA Cup, Dnepr Dnepropetrovsk had knocked PSV out of the competition in the second round, and both midfielder Litovchenko, as team captain, and striker Protasov had featured. The latter had indeed scored both of the Soviet club side’s goals in the 2-2 draw in Holland. Litovchenko would later get the only goal of the return leg.
Referee was Englishman Joe Worrall, taking charge of his sixth international since his debut with Spain against Hungary just over five years earlier. He had not refereed any of these two previously.
|1 Theo Snelders||25||Aberdeen|
|2 Adri van Tiggelen||56′||31||Anderlecht|
|3 Wim Hofkens||30||Mechelen|
|4 Ronald Koeman||26||PSV Eindhoven|
|5 Frank Rijkaard||26||AC Milan|
|6 Graeme Rutjes||28||Mechelen|
|7 Gerald Vanenburg||25||PSV Eindhoven|
|8 Aron Winter||22||Ajax|
|9 Marco van Basten||24||AC Milan|
|10 Ruud Gullit (c)||26||AC Milan|
|11 Pieter Huistra||sub 72′||22||Twente|
|14 John Bosman||on 72′||24||Mechelen|
|x Edward Metgod||29||Haarlem|
|x Mark Verkuijl||25||Ajax|
|x Fred Rutten||26||FC Twente|
|x John Bosman||24||KV Mechelen|
|x John van Loen||24||Roda JC|
Soviet Union (4-5-1)
|1 Rinat Dasayev (c)||31||Sevilla|
|2 Sergey Gorlukovich||27||Lokomotiv Moskva|
|3 Andrey Zygmantovich||sub 64′||26||Dinamo Minsk|
|4 Oleg Kuznetsov||26||Dinamo Kiev|
|5 Anatoly Demyanenko||30||Dinamo Kiev|
|6 Vasily Rats||27||Dinamo Kiev|
|7 Sergey Aleinikov||27||Dinamo Minsk|
|8 Gennady Litovchenko||25||Dinamo Kiev|
|9 Aleksandr Zavarov||27||Juventus|
|10 Oleg Protasov||25||Dinamo Kiev|
|11 Aleksandr Borodyuk||sub 64′||26||Dinamo Moskva|
|12 Aleksey Cherednik||on 64′||28||Dnepr Dnepropetrovsk|
|13 Yuri Savichev||on 64′||24||Torpedo Moskva|
|Viktor Chanov||29||Dinamo Kiev|
Holland were without their midfield anchor man Wouters, and had so moved Rijkaard into a slightly more advanced position than usual: He would be playing at the back of their central midfield three, where Vanenburg was ahead of him to his right, and where Gullit was ahead of Vanenburg again. However, the latter was full of endeavour, and gave wholehearted defensive contributions for large parts of the match. Huistra down the left flank was an out and out winger, something which could not be said for Winter opposite; the latter was clearly an inverted wide midfielder. At the back, the Dutch kept with the younger Koeman brother as libero, whilst newcomer Rutjes did the marking on Protasov. Left-back Hofkens was a willing player in coming forward, something which could not be said about van Tiggelen at right-back. Up top, van Basten sought to bring others into play, and he would continue to cause his marker an awful lot of trouble with his movement, agility, pace and sheer strength.
The USSR also lined up with a single striker in Protasov. Unlike his counterpart van Basten, Protasov was not quite as successful in bringing team mates into play, and he often fought a losing battle against the uncompromising Rutjes. Litovchenko was performing at the right hand side of midfield, where he had to offer right full-back Demyanenko a lot of support in order to try and keep Huistra quiet. Kuznetsov was the spare man in the heart of their defence, with Gorlukovich marking van Basten. Rats was at left-back, but he would also push forward as the Soviets did not have a designated left-sided midfielder from the outset. Instead, Zygmantovich, who would be the more defensive of the visitors’ midfielders, kept orientating himself towards Rats’ territory if need be. Aleinikov, no stranger to a libero or a holding midfielder role, was ahead of Zygmantovich in central midfield, where he would have Zavarov and Borodyuk further ahead of him.
Holland reappear as they had been before the break.
The visitors have altered their formation at half-time, stretching their original 4-5-1 into a 4-4-2, with Borodyuk pushing higher to lend Protasov support. Defensive midfielder Zygmantovich comes into a left-sided role ahead of full-back Rats, and Aleinikov and Zavarov deal with the two central berths on their own, with Litovchenko continuing along his right hand side. This will clearly benefit the Soviets.
Holland might be rocked, but it is the visitors who proceed to make the first change(s) of the match as they make a double substitution just short of 20 minutes into the second period: Zygmantovich comes off for defender Cherednik, and Borodyuk is replaced by striker Savichev. This sees Rats come into the left-sided midfield position, with substitute Cherednik slotting into the left-back role that Rats had just vacated. Savichev takes over in the support role for Protasov up front.
It is around the time of the Soviet double substitution that the home side tinker with their formation. They had been on the back foot for large spells of the second half so far, and saw the need to pull van Tiggelen into a central defensive role. Rutjes would continue to look after Protasov, but van Tiggelen would struggle if his intention was to mark Savichev. The Soviet substitute was sitting a little bit deeper, and so was more difficult to mark out of the game. The change in formation saw Koeman with more freedom, and he would infrequently advance into midfield from his libero position. It is fair to say that Hofkens (left) and Winter were by now wing-backs, and their formation carried something of a 3-4-3 resemblance, with van Basten still as the sole striker. Huistra was still running along the left-sided touchline, with Vanenburg seemingly adapting to an outside right position. Gullit and Rijkaard would take care of central midfield.
The home side make their one and only substitution with less than 20 minutes remaining on the clock. Huistra comes off for Bosman, a typical centre-forward. However, Bosman will come into Vanenburg’s position to the right of van Basten, whereas Vanenburg switches across to the flank that Huistra had just left. Yet another switch towards the end saw Gullit switch out to the right hand side, with Bosman coming into Gullit’s central midfield role.
The home crowd seems to be in a great mood ahead of kick-off, and the noise levels in PSV’s rather compact and intimate stadium when the marching band performed the Dutch national anthem almost came through the roof. Mind you, it is difficult to keep a neutral face when you hear as beautiful a tune as the Soviet anthem, but this was indeed a partizan crowd, and they were only out to lend their maximum support for the home eleven, and simultaneously do their utmost to unease the visitors. With what appeared to be a rather strong wind in their back, Vanenburg and van Basten saw to kick-off for the hosts.
The visitors did not give the impression of being fazed early doors. In less than two minutes, they combine well along the right hand side through Zavarov and Demyanenko, and the full-back wins a corner off Huistra, who is back doing some clever defensive work. Left-sided defender Rats goes across to whip a cross in with his fine left boot, and as early as it is, the big and burly Gorlukovich comes close to opening the scoring with a near post header. It will be a feature of the visitors that the player who will look after van Basten throughout comes up for set-pieces in order to attack the near post. For this opening move, Holland had obviously not been aware of Gorlukovich’ strength in the air, as he was one of the lesser known capacities within the Soviet side, and someone who had not featured during the European Championships the previous year. It had been the relatively modestly sized Winter who had tried to contain Gorlukovich for this particular situation, but after the early scare Libregts would make sure that he put his best aerial performer to attend to the Soviet number 2.
There is indeed a lot happening early on, and the game has yet to settle as the hosts spring into the lead: Holland’s new look left hand side with full-back Hofkens and the playful Huistra looks enthusiastic, and as Vanenburg, here appearing in a central midfield role with a lot of freedom to express himself, spots Hofkens behind the back of Litovchenko down the touchline, the Eindhoven based midfielder tees the full-back up for a cross which Hofkens executes to perfection. As the ball comes in, it barely evades the head of Gullit, but just behind the great talisman van Basten has wriggled free from his marker, and as he throws himself forward to connect with the ball, he makes sure his touch is so perfect that he is able to guide it beyond the reach of legendary goalkeeper Dasayev and into the back of the net. Rather than being a set-piece goal down, the Dutch take the lead with just over three minutes on the clock. Cue some wild celebration from the home side’s players, revealing that the match means more than your average friendly. The Soviet Union hardly knew what had hit them, but it was not in their minds to lay down and surrender. If any side was capable of yet turning such a deficit around, it would be them.
Not only does the early goal give the stadium a lift, as if it had been needed; it had already been in a buoyant mood. No, the home players also receive a big lift, and they go about their duties with great fervour, making sure their midfield players are full of aggression to never leave the Soviet players with any peace. Holland do not allow the Soviet Union to start their meticulous short passing play, and they close their opponents down with great zest. Gullit shows no signs of any complacency, as he is part of a central midfield three that is particularly impressive, and the same goes too for both Vanenburg and Rijkaard, the latter who sits just in front of the defence in what is a bit of a new role for him in the national select. We were used to seeing Rijkaard as Koeman’s partner in the heart of the Dutch defence, but it was not as if he were a complete stranger to playing in midfield, and his enormous ability made sure he was very compatible even with this position. Three minutes after 1-0, and with just over six minutes on the clock, Holland come perilously close to increasing their lead in a move involving van Basten, Gullit and Huistra. The goalscorer flicked a ball into the area which Gullit managed to get a touch to with his head just ahead of Aleinikov, and as the ball fell into the feet of Huistra just around the penalty spot, he outwitted Demyanenko with a deft back-heel straight into the path of van Basten, who rammed a left-foot shot first time just wide of the upright. Dasayev would have stood no chance had the ball hit inside the frame of the goal. As it were, the visitors had had a lucky escape, and they would need to get their composure back after this overwhelming Dutch start. Indeed, the Soviet eleven looked like they were about to be blown off the pitch by the extremely enthusiastic Oranje. It was a strange sight, and perhaps not one expected from Holland under their new boss Libregts, who was usually a bit more cautious in his approach than his predecessor Michels had been.
The Soviet midfield composition does appear slightly unbalanced. The idea may have been to let Zygmantovich sit towards the left, ahead of full-back Rats, but Zygmantovich is no wide midfielder; his nature is in the centre. And this is where he will find himself most of the time during the opening half, sitting at the deep end of the visitors’ midfield, just behind his Minsk team mate Aleinikov. To the right, there’s Litovchenko, another player usually so comfortable on the ball; they all typically are in the Soviet midfield. However, the rapid Dutch opening to the game seems to have thrown the Soviet security over board, and even if they try to pass the ball within their side, the visiting team can not get going. Things would have looked so different had it been they who had gone in front after that early corner, but now they were reduced to running between the Dutch players and chasing the ball. This did not allow the skillful Zavarov to stamp his authority on the game. Zavarov had been struggling also to make a mark in Italy after moving abroad to play for Juventus, and he did not seem overly confident as Holland kept possession. A fifth Soviet midfielder, Moscovite Borodyuk, appeared to be at the head of the quintet, possibly with the aim of lending support to lone striker Protasov, who was being marshalled by the imposing Rutjes. Protasov would always pose a great goal threat, but he was unable to muster much on his own, and if his team mates opted to play it long for him to give chase, Protasov would be outnumbered heavily by the Dutch defence. The visitors would need to regain their confidence from keeping possession over time, something which they had been unable to do within the opening 15 minutes. The home players were all over them, and the Soviet Union just could not keep with this kind of tenacity.
Gorlukovich has been mentioned as van Basten’s designated marker. He seemed like a bloke you would not want in your face, but at the same time he gave off something of an untidy impression, especially when on the ball: He was often rushed, not appearing confident at all. His strengths obviously laid in combative play. This left Kuznetsov, the Soviet libero in Eindhoven, to try and start any build-up from the back. Also there was Demyanenko, who was always such a reliable, trusted figure, but clearly unsettled by the eagerness of Huistra along his defensive side, Demyanenko could not get into his rhythm. The same went for Litovchenko further along the right-sided touchline. The two Kiev players were at times ran in rings around by Huistra, who really was up for the challenge, and the Twente man was a winger in the traditional sense, rarely leaving the touchline chalk at all. If the idea had been for Litovchenko and Demyanenko to defend in tandem, they were very unsuccessful. Huistra would get into a few decent crossing positions, and he was well aided by the strong and confident Hofkens behind him. To an outsider, it was strange to see the Soviet backline be exposed with such relative ease, and it was not like they could allow the hosts to notch another goal. Holland, at this time, were not shipping goals easily, and they would be difficult to reach should they score a second.
No one will ever forget the goal that van Basten scored to seal the Dutch’ ’88 triumph in West Germany against the same Soviets. He had caught Mühren’s deep cross from the left and hit his sensational first time shot with such power and precision that Dasayev on that occasion had been left almost starstruck. With nearly 20 minutes of the first half gone, the striker attempts to make something of a carbon copy of the goal in Munich: Rijkaard plays a ball over the top of the Soviet defence, and van Basten, again having run himself free from the shackles of Gorlukovich, is able to spin and hit another first time volley. However, this time Dasayev is equal to his effort, which comes to the ‘keeper’s near post rather than arching over his head towards the far post. Dasayev beats it away for a fifth Dutch corner, but after a few minutes where the visitors had been able to keep possession, it was a quick reminder that they could never let van Basten out of sight. The Milan ace really was at the top of his game.
When halfway through the first period the Dutch crowd goes into a couple of renditions of ‘Kalinka’, it is difficult to say whether or not it was to taunt the visitors, but it was nevertheless a fact by now that the Soviet Union were gradually eating their way into the game. They were able to keep possession as the heavy, intensive Dutch pressure from the opening 15 minutes had waned somewhat, and the visitors were always looking likely to break forward if they managed to set up their most attacking midfielders with little balls ahead from their colleagues. In particular Zavarov thrived when he could receive a short pass from Kuznetsov, Zygmantovich or Aleinikov and take on the Dutch defenders at pace. There were clearly signs of improvement from the USSR, who were slowly regaining their composure and building their confidence. The home side counter-weighed Huistra’s extreme attacking lust down the left through having a much more defensive-minded player in Winter along the right, as Libregts obviously knew how hazardous it would be to leave the centre of the pitch exposed. Winter made a good few backward runs, and saw to that Rats could not advance along his left hand side unguarded. The only Ajax presence in the Dutch side might not have been the greatest sparkling player going forward, but he sure was donning solid defensive contributions. This seemed to allow for Vanenburg, just inside of Winter, to express himself, and the PSV engine seemed to thrive in this role. He would be at the heart of a lot of what the home side were creating. Behind him was the excellent Rijkaard, who was such a majestic presence with his pace, power, vision and positional awareness. The Dutch may have been used to seeing Wouters in the midfield anchor role, but it was fair to say that Rijkaard brought another dimension to midfield through his greater radius of action. And with Koeman very apt at spreading long, precise balls from the back, it was not as if Holland were missing Rijkaard’s deep distribution either. And in a way, they still got even that, as the Milan star could be found at the rear of the midfield by his team mates.
The Dutch were used to seeing PSV ‘keeper van Breukelen between the sticks, but neither he nor the usual second choice Hiele of Feyenoord were in the squad. Instead, the number 1 spot had gone to Theo Snelders, who had before the start of the season moved to Scotland and Aberdeen. He was earning rave reviews for his performances in the Scottish league, and had, perhaps to a few people’s surprise, been picked ahead of Ajax goalie Stanley Menzo here. It would take the Soviet Union almost half an hour to put him to the test for the first time, as Aleinikov is able to take a rolled free-kick from Rats and have a go from a full 30 yards. We had seen Aleinikov score from this range before, but on this occasion his effort is far from good enough to cause Snelders a lot of worry, and the ‘keeper collects comfortably at waist height. At the other end was the great Rinat Dasayev, who, like Snelders, had moved abroad ahead of the 1988/89 campaign. Having been allowed to leave his country after serving the national team honourably for such a long period of time, Dasayev had travelled to Sevilla. He had not had it all his way by this point, and he had even been benched a good few times by Sevilla boss Roque Olsen. Despite his troubles, though, Dasayev would have played 24 out of 38 league matches by the end of his inaugural season away from the comfort of his home, conceding 29 times. Here in Eindhoven he had looked a bit unsure when coming for high balls, like Vanenburg’s corners from the Dutch left, and he had cut a frustrated figure when wanting to throw the ball out to a team mate, only to find no option ahead of him due to the lack of movement. Snelders, again, had to be alert when beating out a Litovchenko cross which had almost caught him by surprise on the near post, away for another Rats right wing corner. And, like inside the opening couple of minutes, the left-back’s inswinging kick reached the head of Gorlukovich, who had been able to beat Rijkaard this time in the air. However, his header went into the side netting. Yet again, though, the big Lokomotiv Moskva man had looked dangerous when attacking a set-piece.
The match is turning into a stalemate after the half hour mark, where no team is able to break down the opponents’ rear lines, although Gullit looks like he has found an opening in the Soviet defence as he accepts Rutjes’ clever ball through the centre. The attacking midfielder connects first time with the inside of his right foot, and the ball rams into the right hand post behind Dasayev, only for Gullit to be called off for offside. It was a correct, albeit marginal, decision.
The longer the half went on, the more the Soviets wished to involve Zavarov, whose influence on the game was increasing. At times the little wizzard would come deep and collect from his central defenders; other times he would receive the ball from Aleinikov just behind him. However, he could not deliever a telling final ball, as lone forward Protasov was still being kept well in tow by the home side’s defenders, and despite Litovchenko seeming gradually to up his appetite for attacking down the right hand side, the visitors will not cause any opportunities from open play in the first half. And what exactly was Borodyuk’s role in this team? He did not always seem to be in sync with his team mates, and would not put extreme efforts into closing down the Dutch players. The Dinamo Moskva player seemed to want the ball, and could perhaps be of greater use if the Soviet Union’s possession levels were to improve. In the opening period, though, he had only played a bit part at best. The teams go into the dressing rooms with Holland a goal up.
The wind does not seem to have lost much of its strength during the half time break, and so it is the away team to attack with the gale behind them. There had been no changes in personnel at the break, but right away from the offset it seems that Zygmantovich has been told to stick to the left hand side of the pitch. The Soviet Union had been lacking in width along the left in the opening half, but if the idea now was to keep the Minsk midfield man wide ahead of full-back Rats, they could be intent on posing a threat also along van Tiggelen’s defensive side. And how about Borodyuk? Had he not been moved higher up the pitch as well? It certainly seemed so, as it looked like he was playing just off Protasov, and no longer as a part of a midfield five. Lobanovsky appeared to have told his players in no uncertain terms that their first half showing had not been acceptable, even if they had been on level with the home side in the last 15 minutes. In an attempt to try and win the ball high up in the pitch, the visitors decided to press the home players just outside of Snelders’ penalty area with three or four men, perhaps revealing also the ‘keeper’s lack of experience at this level, as he had fed Koeman a short ball after a failed Litovchenko corner from the left. Rutjes was livid with his number 1, and told him to boot it high up the pitch as long as the Soviet Union were pressing like they did.
The USSR enjoy a decent start to the second half, seeing a lot of possession, and returning the favour to the home side’s players from the first half of having to run between and chase. They do seem more balanced in midfield when they lend width even to their left hand side, although Zygmantovich is far from a natural in this left-handed position. Aleinikov drops a little deeper than he had been for most of the first half, and becomes the defensive midfielder that one had been used to seeing. At the same time, Zavarov can be seen a bit higher up the pitch, constantly trying to look for either of the two strikers. And Litovchenko also seems to have greater hunger at this point, usually so clever on the ball and making decent runs along the right hand side.
Rutjes and his ‘keeper had already explained to one another what they were expecting from the other, but again their communication had seemed to break down seven minutes into the second half. Rutjes attempted to head a high ball back to his goalkeeper, but Snelders had come off his line and was not expecting Rutjes’ lofty effort. Another factor playing against the Dutch in this situation was the wind, and it contributed to carrying the ball high towards goal. Snelders did manage to get an outstretched paw to it, something which prevented it from going in, and instead the ball came off the post and trickled just wide, with Litovchenko unable to guide it into the back of the net, rather having to settle for a right wing corner. It had been a real scare to the home side, who had just conceded their first opportunity of the match. This time it was Snelders to give his defender an earful, as Rutjes had clearly not spotted his ‘keeper coming off the line. Snelders had done exceptionally well to get fingers to the ball and so prevent a Soviet equalizer.
Ten minutes into the second half, van Tiggelen gets himself into referee Worrall’s book. On today’s rules he would have walked for a ‘professional foul’, as he deliberately brought down Protasov on way through on goal, but the English official only produced a yellow. It was a foul as cynical as it got, as the Anderlecht defender’s only aim was to scissor Protasov down from behind. The forward, to his credit, was back up on his feet only moments later, and just got on with the game, in no way trying to mouth at the referee for not sending van Tiggelen off. It had been Zavarov’s vision which had put Protasov through in the first place, and the Juventus player was clearly happy to be back playing with his former team mates, having endured some miserable times in Italy.
The Dutch left hand side, which had been such a threat to the visitors during the opening half, had reduced its potency since half time, and in the first quarter of an hour of the second half, the home side can only keep possession inside the Soviet half sporadically. The formational change had seemed to bring the best out of the visitors, whereas a few of the home team’s players were playing below par. Hofkens was still giving a good account of himself at left-back, where he would not allow Litovchenko to get beyond him and approach the byline. Rutjes’ grip on Protasov was no longer as strong as it had been in the first half, and Rijkaard was struggling to dominate midfield like he had earlier. The intensive pressure that Gullit and Vanenburg had applied inside the opening 20-25 minutes had still not returned, and so Holland were losing the midfield battle. Even Demyanenko was creeping into the game, although he still did not take any risks from his right-back position.
Eyeing the increasing dominance from the visitors, Libregts proceeds to make a tactical change: He switches from the 4-5-1 formation and over to a 3-4-3, where van Tiggelen comes into the centre to aid Koeman and Rutjes to keep Borodyuk and not least the now eager Protasov in check. They seem more bent on zonal than man-to-man marking, the Dutch, with van Tiggelen playing to the right of libero Koeman, Rutjes to the left. Winter continues in the right-sided midfield spot, though this time he will have Vanenburg ahead of him in something resembling a three-pronged attack, although the PSV ace will still even contribute in midfield. He had gone through an impressive amount of work during the first 45 minutes, but Vanenburg’s influence on the game after the break was less. The two central midfield spots were now occupied by Rijkaard and Gullit, but they could not prevent the Soviet carving out another couple of opportunities, first through Aleinikov, who had been off balance when attempting a left-foot shot from just inside the area, and then through Protasov again, who fired a low left-footed effort just wide of the opposite upright when breaking into the area. Protasov was really becoming a handful. In between these two Soviet opportunities Huistra had, for the first time in the second half, swung a cross in from the left which had only just escaped Gullit, who claimed he had been held back by Kuznetsov. But Holland were perhaps by now a tad fortunate to still be in front.
Just short of 20 minutes into the second half come the first two changes in the match, with Lobanovsky relieving Zygmantovich of his left wing duties. The Dinamo Minsk man had been unable to get into the game all afternoon, and was replaced by left-sided defender Cherednik. This would mean that Rats, who was no stranger to playing wide left in midfield, would come into the position vacated by Zygmantovich, something which potentially would hardly weaken the Soviets down this particular flank. Also, they took Borodyuk off and replaced him with Torpedo Moskva striker Savichev. Borodyuk had not done much right, and even if the visitors had been dominant from 50-65 minutes, the switch could only benefit the team.
For the home side, Gullit and Vanenburg would invariably switch positions, with the former seen out towards the right wing on a few occasions, and the still enthusiastic Vanenburg lending his support to a midfield which continued to be overpowered by the visitors up towards the halfway point of the second half. The player still continuing to cause some kind of concern to the Soviet defence, was van Basten. Never famous for his pace to stretch defenders, the Dutch would still try to look for him into the channels, with Koeman on a couple of occasions hitting balls towards him from the deep. Gorlukovich was still not too comfortable in trying to pin the Milan striker down, and the big defender would have to retort to fouls from time to time. However, it wasn’t as if van Basten was not used to this from his weekly exertions in Serie A.
The double Soviet substitution does not have the desired effect, at least not immediately, as Savichev is largely unable to influence on the game any more than what Borodyuk had done. It is Protasov who is the big thorn in the Dutch defence, and he is usually assisted by Zavarov in the attacking midfield position. However, the emergence of Rats as the wide midfielder had possibly been a change for the better, as he was better both at keeping width and also at advancing down the left than what Zygmantovich had been prior to departing. Yet, the home side will gradually regain control of the match, as the opportunities created by the visitors had failed to result in a goal. There’s a chance for Koeman to have a go from a free-kick just outside the Soviet penalty area, after Kuznetsov had been ajudged to infringe on the advancing Hofkens. The left-back had come forward and been impeded just outside the right edge of the visitors’ area, so his momentum had carried him all the way into a right wing position. Hofkens, calm and collected at the back, sure was having a fine debut. Koeman has a go even from this angle, but sees his free-kick parried away for a right wing corner at waist height by Dasayev.
The hosts make their only substitution of the match on 72 minutes, when Huistra, who had helped out in defence on a couple of occasions during the second half, is replaced by striker John Bosman. The Mechelen forward comes into the right wing position, something which sees Vanenburg switch across to the left. However, just like had been the case with Vanenburg, Bosman will also invariably switch roles with Gullit and contribute from a central midfield role. Neither will have been Bosman’s favoured position, but he put a shift in for the team.
Did we mention that Protasov was a real handful for the Dutch defence? On 76 minutes, he puts his right leg out and gets a touch to a low, hard ball into the centre by the improved Litovchenko, who had really raised his game after the break. Protasov had lost Rutjes, but despite connecting well with the ball with his outstretched leg, the striker had to see Snelders dive to his left and palm his effort away for a right wing corner. That defence which had looked so solid in the opening 45 minutes, had now cracked a good few times after the break. Yet the visitors had been unable to make a telling contribution.
The game went scrappy after that and until the moment when Vanenburg gains control of the ball inside the centre circle five minutes from time. He spots Rijkaard just ahead of him, and the Milan ace again sees Gullit in acres of space to his left and in a more advanced position. A precise ball forward sees the Dutch captain run through on goal, although one’s first instincts say “offside”. However, Gorlukovich had been closer to goal, though 25 yards to Gullit’s right and looking after van Basten, so Gullit is clearly onside. As he bursts into the area with only Dasayev to beat, he tries to take the ball to the ‘keeper’s left. Gullit carries a lot of momentum and takes the ball away from the goalie, who proceeds to bring him down to give the referee grounds for awarding the home side a penalty. No one could argue with that, and even Dasayev realizes that he had brought Gullit down, just taking up his position on the goal line to face the upcoming penalty. Taken and converted by Koeman, as Dasayev dives to his right, with the ball ending up almost right in the middle of the goal. Despite the visitors’ second half efforts, the home side were now in an unassailable two goal lead with only a few minutes remaining. It was Koeman’s fifth international goal and his third from the spot.
The remaining few minutes contain little of interest, although it is clear that the Soviet players’ heads have dropped, and so the Dutch can allow themselves some showboating, particularly through by Vanenburg. However, there’s yet another chance right at the death for Protasov, who is left completely unmarked on the far post when Litovchenko has been played in behind Hofkens’ back for just about the first time in the match. The wide man’s cross is not perfect, but Protasov strikes a first time volley into the ground and over Snelders’ goal. He had had enough opportunities to come away with a hat-trick, had Protasov, so he will have been disappointed to have been on the losing team. Hofkens, on the other hand, will have been disappointed to have relaxed for a couple of seconds to let Litovchenko in behind his back. Yet it didn’t matter. The ref blew his whistle one final time, and the home side had come away with a flattering 2-0 win.
Holland make their breakthrough as early as the fourth minute, as van Basten heads home a fine Hofkens cross from the left, and after that they turn the screw on the visitors, who can barely get out of their own half until half an hour’s been played. They gradually grow stronger, the Soviets, and after the break they will dominate the second half like the Dutch had done in the first. Despite a good few opportunities, most of them falling to the lively Protasov, though the biggest of them all’s caused by Rutjes’ back header onto his own post, the Soviet Union can not get their goal, and as they lose belief towards the end, the home side can put the icing on the cake through Koeman’s penalty after Gullit had been brought down by Dasayev.
1 Snelders 6.8
2 van Tiggelen 6.9
3 Hofkens 7.3
excellent throughout, always strong in the challenge, and did not let the Soviets through down his side until in injury time
4 R Koeman 6.9
5 Rijkaard 7.0
6 Rutjes 7.0
battled well with Protasov in the first half, when he contained him, but struggled more after the break. It has to be said that the Dutch concentrated on zonal marking after the switch from four to three at the back, so Protasov was far from only Rutjes’ responsibility. Lucky to avoid own goal when he headed onto his own post
7 Vanenburg 7.2
tigerish first half display, always kept the ball well, and made himself an option for his team mates
8 Winter 7.1
9 van Basten 7.3
worried Gorlukovich all afternoon, and could have scored another after his excellent early header. Continuously on the move
10 Gullit 7.0
11 Huistra 7.1
a big first half threat when the combination of Demyanenko and Litovchenko could not contain him. Influence vanished after the break when the Dutch sat deep
(14 Bosman -)
1 Dasayev 6.5
in particular his lack of aerial command let him down
2 Gorlukovich 6.5
3 Zygmantovich 6.5
(12 Cherednik -)
4 Kuznetsov 6.9
5 Demyanenko 6.3
an almost embarrassing performance by the normally so solid full-back. Did not seem 100 % fit, and never got to grips with the speedy and tricky Huistra before the break. No threat going forward
6 Rats 6.7
7 Aleinikov 6.9
8 Litovchenko 6.8
as disappointing as Demyanenko in the first half, but picked himself up for the second half to be an influence from his wide right position
9 Zavarov 7.1
the midfielder among the visitors always most likely to look for, and deliever, a telling pass
10 Protasov 7.3
too isolated during the first half, but ran the Dutch defence ragged after the break with his non-stop movements. Got himself into a number of scoring chances, but just could not get that equalizer
11 Borodyuk 6.0
(13 Savichev -)