Oranje prevail in match depleted of big names
Only one team with something to play for in Wrexham, as Wales already were out of contention for a place in Italia’90. A win here would on the other hand put the Netherlands in a very favourable position before the final match day, when they were to play Finland in Rotterdam. The jury was still out on the quality of this Dutch side under Libregts, and although favourites here, they knew that West Germany already had been held to a draw in Wales.
Wales team news
Yorath was missing several key players this evening, facing a headache trying to replace the suspended Ian Rush and Mark Hughes, and the injured Barry Horne and Kevin Ratcliffe. Despite the absence of Rush and Hughes, Yorath chose to keep with his 3-4-3 formation. It is believed that Yorath originally converted to that formation previously in the qualifiers in order to accommodate both Rush, Hughes and Dean Saunders, but this match proved that he had belief in the system, or at any rate believed that there should be consistency formation wise. In the place of Rush and Hughes, both suspended, Yorath drafted in Iwan Roberts and Malcolm Allen to play on top with Saunders. It’s up for discussion how much of a miss Rush and Hughes actually would be. Neither of them had impressed so far in the qualification. There was question of the match fitness of Allen, however, who only had made his season debut for Norwich’s first team the week before (having previously only been a non-playing substitute).
One missing player who had impressed, however, was the injured Barry Horne, the driving power in the Welsh midfield. Yorath would have to hope that the versatile David Phillips could fill his position alongside Geraint Williams. There was no place for Alan Davies, who had been completely ineffectual in Helsinki, but who since then also had been ruled out with a broken leg.
Yet more changes in the defence, where there was no Ratcliffe, and in fact no Aizlewood either (both injured). Nicholas took over the sweeper position from Ratcliffe, with Gavin Maguire and Jeff Hopkins at his side. Maguire had made his debut against Finland last time, Hopkins had been out of the national side since 1984. Finally, as Phillips moved into midfield, Mark Bowen took position as right-sided wing back.
The Netherlands team news
Libregts as usual opted for a 3-4-3 formation, and, as Yorath, he had to make more changes that he ideally would have liked to. The perennial Gullit woe continued for Libregts, who yet again had to field a team without the services of the AC Milan ace. This time van Basten added to Libregt’s worry, as he was recovering from an operation. Despite not being fully fit, he had still been named among the substitutes. He is quoted in Dutch media as saying that he would only play in case of an emergency (similar to the one experienced in Helsinki with Gullit, which of course ultimately paid off), with the European Cup encounter against Real Madrid the following week his goal. In the absence of van Basten, Wim Kieft was handed the task as front striker. He had played in a support role in Helsinki, but now he would expectedly be played more to his strengths.
Another blow to Libregts had been the serious knee-injury to Vanenburg, only a short time before this match. In his absence, John van ‘t Schip returned to his first international in a while. Yet more injury worries on the left hand side for Libregts, where both Bryan Roy and Hendrie Krüzen withdrew from the original squad. This left him with the choice between young Rob Witschge and the right-footed Juul Ellerman, of which Libregts gave the nod to the former, who would make his second cap. Libregts had been in France and seen him in Nantes v Saint-Étienne on 30 September, and evidently liked what he saw.
Jan Wouters returned from his injury to accompany Rijkaard in midfield, as expected. This would be Rijkaard’s second match in the midfield position, where Libregts evidently felt he there was (even) more use of him than in central defence, even though van Tiggelen was injured. As a left wing back, we have been accustomed to see Erwin Koeman, but he was also sidelined with an injury (leg). Wim Hofkens had done his things well as a left sided defender against the Soviets in March, and was Libregt’s choice as replacement for E. Koeman here. Libregts could feel confident moving Rijkaard forward as Graeme Rutjes had made a very good impression so far as a central defender for the Dutch in 1989. He was therefore given new confidence here, together with libero Ronald Koeman, and also Adick Koot (PSV), making his 3rd cap. Libregts had tested Henk Fräser (Roda JC) in this position in a friendly against Denmark in September, but decided to omit from the squad travelling to Wales. Libregts had allegedly explained to Fräser that he preferred Koot because of his greater experience and ability to play in a hostile atmosphere.
Finally, John van Loen was part of the 17 man strong squad travelling to Wales, but was left out of the match day squad.
Wales versus the Netherland was quite a rare fixture in these days. The first ever meeting between the two nations had taken place only earlier in these qualifiers, as Oranje won 1-0 at Olympisch Stadion thanks to a goal by Ruud Gullit.
Experienced referee Helmut Kohl (46 yrs) from Austria was UEFA’s chosen man for this fixture. This was the second and final match he officiated in these qualifiers, having previously been in Bern for Switzerland-Czechoslovakia.
Wales line-up (3-4-3)
|1 Neville Southall||31||Everton|
|2 Clayton Blackmore||25||Manchester United|
|3 Mark Bowen||25||Norwich City|
|4 Peter Nicholas||29||Chelsea|
|5 Jeff Hopkins||25||Crystal Palace|
|6 Gavin Maguire||21||Portsmouth|
|7 Dean Saunders||25||Derby County|
|8 David Phillips||26||Norwich City|
|9 Iwan Roberts||sub 63′||21||Watford|
|10 Geraint Williams||sub 84′||27||Derby County|
|11 Malcolm Allen||22||Norwich City|
|12 Rhys Willmott||27||Plymouth Argyle|
|13 Gary Speed||20||Leeds United|
|14 Andy Jones||on 63′||26||Bristol City|
|15 Andy Melville||20||Swansea City|
|16 Colin Pascoe||on 84′||24||Sunderland|
Netherlands line-up (3-4-3)
|1 Hans van Breukelen||33||PSV Eindhoven|
|2 Berry van Aerle||26||PSV Eindhoven|
|3 Graeme Rutjes||63′||29||KV Mechelen|
|4 Ronald Koeman||26||Barcelona|
|5 Addick Koot||26||PSV Eindhoven|
|6 Jan Wouters||29||Ajax|
|7 John van ‘t Schip||25||Ajax|
|8 Wim Hofkens||31||KV Mechelen|
|9 Wim Kieft||26||PSV Eindhoven|
|10 Frank Rijkaard||sub HT||27||AC Milan|
|11 Rob Witschge||sub 70′||23||Saint-Étienne|
|12 Marco van Basten||on 70′||24||AC Milan|
|13 Aron Winter||22||Ajax|
|14 John Bosman||on HT||24||KV Mechelen|
|15 Juul Ellerman||24||PSV Eindhoven|
|16 Joop Hiele||30||Feyenoord|
It was set for an encounter between two teams with a similar-looking record going into this match: Both managers fielding a 3-4-3 formation and lacking some of their very best players. Despite these similarities, it would soon become clear that the Netherlands as expected were the superior side in quality, and perhaps the side more able to replace their missing players.
0-1: Rutjes with the header The Dutch have been known as late scorers in this qualification, but here they found an early goal (12’). In fact, this was the first goal scored by the Netherlands so far in these qualifiers (five matches) that did not take place within the last ten minutes of the game. As in the first encounter against the Welsh, it was a free kick that gave them the lead. And it was that man, whose defensive contributions have impressed us thus far in 1989, Graeme Rutjes, who got the goal with a powerful header. From near the touchline, Ronald Koeman swung the free kick into the penalty area, weighing it perfectly between Southall and the outfield players, and Rutjes proved that he could contribute as a goal scorer as well.
Rutjes was allowed far too much space in the box, however, and you need to question the Welsh man-marking. This was the fourth goal that Wales had conceded in the qualifiers through a set piece situation: 3 times by a header, one by a direct free kick. The numbers suggest that Wales had a problem defending in these situations. It is impossible to tell from the pictures which player should have got closer to the KV Mechelen man, but Neville Southall spotted the culprit(s?) and communicated with a gesture of disapproval.
But again, it was a strong header from Rutjes, who was having his big breakthrough on international level in 1989. His solid displays at the back had allowed (or contributed to allow) Libregts to move Rijkaard forward into a midfield position, where his industry was needed. Rutjes is a strong and aggressive defender and now also scoring goals for the Netherlands.
Two different 3-4-3s
As everyone expected, the Netherlands dominated the game and enjoyed most of the possession. In terms of formation, this was 3-4-3 vs 3-4-3, but the Dutch formation is meant to stretch the opposition with two wingbacks and two wingers, contrasted to the more compressed Welsh version. Yorath wanted to play direct, often surpassing the midfield, through to the three front men, while Libregts had fielded a team that could find their way through an opponent that was sitting back by using the flanks (he was no advocate of the extreme versions of possession football, however, far from it).
Libregts’ team was predominantly trying to open up Wales in the wide positions. With two wingers and two wing backs, they should be able to put a lot of pressure on Blackmore and Bowen. Wales’ counter measure in this respect was that they wouldn’t easily be stretched by having three central defenders in addition to two defensive minded midfielders in Phillips and Williams. How did the two new Dutch wingers fare? Rob Witschge’s first half was no more than ok. There was youthful enthusiasm, but not much end product. He made a few attempts to take on Blackmore, but the Manchester United man usually got the better of him. A lot more was happening on the opposite side, however, with John van ‘t Schip. He is of course a more experienced player and much more was expected of him than by Witschge. He had replaced the creative Vanenburg and did ever so well in filling the gap. Some clever passes and movement, great skills. The PSV partnership between van Aerle and Vanenburg is well known, but it turns out that this tandem down the right flank could work equally well with van ‘t Schip.
Still, the Dutch play suffered somewhat. Perhaps were they too predictable at times when attacking down the flank, perhaps lacking a proper playmaker to find the solutions in the danger zones. Perhaps also too slow in stretching play, a task Ronald Koeman performs with excellence, and the team could have benefited by using him more in this role. Part of the Dutch game plan this evening must have been to put in crosses from Witschge and van ‘t Schip for Rijkaard and Kieft to connect with, but the number of crosses in total would be disappointingly low. Kieft, known for his aerial capabilities, would be restricted to coming deep and play combinations.
The Welsh forward trio
Other than the goal, the start to the match had been rather uneventful. As expected, the Netherlands were dominant with regard to possession, with Wales vaguely threatening to break forward with pace. Some early hesitancy and imperfect clearances could be observed in the Welsh defence, and you felt that there wasn’t quite the same quality and routine around in the defensive line this evening. Ratcliffe was missed, and you would probably also prefer the experienced Aizlewood to Hopkins and Maguire.
If there was any promise in the early Welsh play, it had been the spaces left behind by the high Dutch defensive line and their two eager runners in Malcolm Allen and Dean Saunders. There were spaces there to run into, and willingness to seek them out with direct through balls from the deep. Moreover, the back three of Koot, Rutjes and R. Koeman weren’t necessarily the quickest defenders, and you would therefore fancy some Welsh opportunities from that aspect of their play. Allen and Saunders were roaming, while Roberts’ task was to either hold up the ball or knock the ball down for the two others to run onto.
Allen was even offered a surprising one-on-one situation with van Breukelen after some unnecessary hesitancy from Koot, but didn’t show much confidence when trying to put the ball past the Dutch goalkeeper. It was Wales’ only good goal scoring opportunity in the first half, and one Allen didn’t quite seem prepared for.
Rijkaard in the Gullit role
Libregts is keen on having one central midfielder pushing forward and one holding midfielder, and seemed to have fielded his best option in Rijkaard and Wouters. In Rijkaard you would have a midfielder with tons of work rate and also abilities in going forward to support the front men, making the occasional run from the deep that could penetrate any defence. The presence of Rijkaard in midfield benefits the team when Gullit is out with injury. Rijkaard was taking his support duties very seriously, and was willingly going forward to assist all the three front men. He also acted as a target man with his physical presence and as a finisher, with one shot on goal recorded in the first half after one of his trademark deep runs.
His physique and industry makes him a very tough opponent. But he has his limitations. He doesn’t always know what to do when playing with his back to goal, which he often ended up doing here, and can be lost for options. He excels when allowed to be more direct, and stride forward with surging runs, and suffers more when he has to come up with creative solutions, as frequently was the case when he now had to play as an attacking midfielder, in an attempt to replace Gullit.
Yorath had even taken a counter-measure against Rijkaard, as Williams appeared to man-mark him. The Derby man was always the player tracking Rijkaard, although not altogether that successful in doing so. This in turn led to opening up spaces in midfield for the visitors, as Williams followed Rijkaard and Phillips at times could be left alone when the Dutch managed to stretch play.
Welsh revival before the end of the half
Pushed back for most of the first half, Wales saw a small revival for the last 15 minutes or so. This may have been due to the dynamic of the game itself, with the Netherlands perhaps unable to keep up the pressure for 45 minutes, but also because Rijkaard appeared to have picked up a foot injury and more and more disappeared from the game.
As a result of Horne’s absence, Wales appeared weak in their midfield when going forward. Phillips and Williams were mostly restricted to playing sideways or backwards by the aggressive Rijkaard and Wouters, effectively taking them out the game in that respect. It would usually be Nicholas or the two wing backs who hoisted the ball forward, in the direction of the three front men. Roberts was disappearing from the game after a half-bright start, but Saunders and Allen continued to cause some trouble. They were unpredictable in their movement and quicker than any player in the Dutch defence, without creating much in the final third.
Going into the break, the conclusion looked clear. The Netherlands were perhaps missing van Basten, Gullit and Vanenburg, their three best attacking players, but they were still able to replace them in an adequate way. Their early goal had given them confidence, but they hadn’t been able to create much after that. Wales hadn’t quite succeeded with their similar problem, although it looked as if the absence Horne and Ratcliffe was more felt than that of Hughes and Rush.
Before the 2nd half
Rijkaard couldn’t recover from the knock he received in the first half, and there was no surprise to see him replaced at the break. Thus, John Bosman entered the game. With Bosman, Libregts had opted for a more attacking replacement than he strictly had to. There was after all also Aron Winter on the bench, a more defensive midfielder by nature. Still, Libregts evidently felt that he needed the attacking momentum that Bosman could contribute with.
No changes for Wales, but it soon became clear that Yorath had been a small tweak. While the front trio had been roaming around freely in the 1st half, their positioning would now be more fixed, with Allen and Roberts as the two central strikers and Dean Saunders as right sided forward, constituting a lop-sided trio.
Bosman makes a good contribution
How much of a blow was losing Rijkaard for the Netherlands? Not much, it seems. Bosman has better technique and better quality in his passing in the final third of the pitch, and isn’t this exactly the kind of player that they need for the advanced midfield position (a position originally intended for Gullit, of course)? With Bosman on the field, Oranje had a player who brings movement from central positions, like Rijkaard, but more skill in the decisive situations.
Bosman was an eager runner in the 45 minutes he was given, not only from the central areas, but from the left hand side, which had had been rather quiet in the first half. Witschge never quite found his place, and the few good initiatives from that side would come from the substitute Bosman. Now the Netherlands looked dangerous on both flanks. One of these runs from the left saw Bosman moving inwards into spaces deserted by the Welsh midfielders and finish from a promising distance. The shot was saved by Southall, but it was a well crafted move initiated by Bosman in combination with Hofkens, the left wing back.
Netherlands in control
While the Netherlands looked firmly in control of the game, and the introduction of Bosman made them look a bit more fluid going forward, they were not threatening much in the final third. Bosman was primarily linking up with the left hand side, and wheras Hofkens did a decent job in his support role, Rob Witschge didn’t particularly enjoy his game. He tried on a number of occasions to get past Blackmore, but ultimately without success. The right hand side was a lot more promising, with van ‘t Schip and van Aerle, but Libregts must have reckoned that the services of Bosman for that reason were more needed on the opposite side. For the same reason you need to wonder why they didn’t focus play more on the right hand side.
One good aspect of Dutch play was the contributions by Ronald Koeman in building play from behind, enabling them to play through the middle. There was always great things to expect when he shuttled forward from his deep position just when the Dutch attack appeared to have stalled (for example after interrupted breakdowns), as he brought new impetus with his brilliant vision and passing skills, often releasing players through the channels or longe-range passes. Wales had no countermeasure to Koeman’s interventions. They would probably have needed one of the three forwards to follow his runs, but none of the three saw this as their responsibility, evidently.
Koeman was of course also a fantastic finisher, although he was still waiting for his first goal in the 1990 qualifiers. He came close in the 2nd half in Wrexham, however, with a long shot from 25 yards that hit the post. Wales had, again, been unattentive to his forward surge and let him shuttle into shooting distance.
Wales can’t get in the game
As the game lingered on, the visitors also seemed more happy to let Wales have the ball. Which inevitably gave them opportunities on the counter. Especially van ‘t Schip looked a very useful player when breaking forward with pace. As the Netherlands grew more happy to let Wales control the ball, they also minimized spaces behind their own defence. Thus, less favourable conditions for Allen and Saunders. Passes were frequently hoofed upwards in the direction of Roberts, but the Watford striker didn’t enjoy a particularly good game, finding Koot and Rutjes to be a tough challenge in the aerial tussles.
As mentioned, Saunders was playing as a right sided forward in the 2nd half, but with little impact. Perhaps they missed the unpredictability shown between the three forwards in the first half, when the Dutch defenders were more unsure about their positional belongings. Barry Horne was missed. Yorath’s new midfield duo was struggling to stamp their authority on the game. Phillips and Williams did reasonably well in tracking runs from the visitors, although the movement of the Dutch players meant that they were sometimes overloaded and dragged out of position. But they couldn’t give the front trio much support, and also the two wing backs were reluctant going forward, in fear of the Dutch wingers. An extra man in midfield might have been what Wales needed, not a third central defender. Maguire was mainly acting as a cover in defence, as was Nicholas, with Hopkins marking Kieft. The question is whether something like a 4-3-3 could have served Yorath’s needs better. Moreover, the leader of the defence, Nicholas, wasn’t particularly impressive in his passing this evening, and comparisons with Koeman becomes unfair, unfortunately.
In the 63rd minute, Yorath saw the need to shake up things a bit by bringing on a substitute. Iwan Roberts, arguably more anonymous than the other two forwards, was taken off and replaced by Andy Jones. Jones had yet to appear in the 1990 qualifiers, although he played regularly in the preceding campaign for the 1988 European Championships.
0-2: Brief Welsh revival ends as Bosman scores
The Welsh substitution was followed by a brief revival for the home side, as Saunders within the space of a few minutes was presented with two good opportunities. First from a free kick, as he was presented the ball on the back post and sent a shot wide, then following a through ball from Williams as the Dutch were caught in possession, which he couldn’t get past van Breukelen. Especially the second chance was just what Yorath must have wished to see, with Saunders threatening with his pace from the right hand side. Were Wales back in the game?
The brief Welsh revival was cut short as the Netherlands soon added to their lead. And it was another header inside the penalty area, this time by substitute Bosman. The visitors had built a good attacking move, switching from one side to another, and there were players arriving in the area at the moment when Berry van Aerle struck his cross from the right hand side. The right back’s crosses have sometimes been questioned so far in the qualifers, but this was a great cross, and the header from Bosman was also top quality. Bosman’s header equalled the class of Gullit in its strength and direction.
Lovely stuff, really. But again you have to question the Welsh defence. Peter Nicholas was the player closest to Bosman, but still nowhere near to make his ascent difficult. The goal was followed by Libregts making a substitution. Rob Witschge’s somewhat frustrating evening was over, and Marco van Basten came on. While van Basten obviously had been warming up, it is difficult to tell whether Libregts only intended him to come on after the goal or before.
Uneventful last 20 minutes, although Wales find a goal (1-2)
Perhaps less need to dwell on the last 20 minutes of this game. The Netherlands were firmly in control, as their last goal had effectively killed any hope among the hosts that had been ignited. The Welsh revival was abandoned and there wasn’t much tension left in the game, much influenced by the festive mood in the Dutch areas of Racecourse Ground.
It soon turned out that van Basten would play as a right sided forward. And while the Netherlands surely were content with their two goal lead, the very presence of van Basten created the feeling that another goal was imminent. His presence lifted the other players, and he contributed with some clever movement and daft touches in the danger zones. A good substitution, at a point where Libregts’ team so easily could have become lethargic.
However, the visitors would let in a goal in this game, as Mark Bowen in a very opportunistic way found a goal just before full time (89’). A Welsh attack appeared to have been wasted by Bowen’s lacking cross from the left, but when Koeman and van Breukelen couldn’t agree about whose turn it was to touch the ball, Bowen emerged from behind and tackled the ball into the net. Great opportunism by the Norwich defender. There had been no lack of grit this evening from the Welsh, although they lacked some quality. Still, they had been presented enough opportunities to equalize, sometimes because of a lack of concentration in the Dutch defence, and they would have needed to seize them.
A win in Wrexham was a brilliant result for Libregts, especially at this stage of the qualification. His team had been much helped by the early goal in a half where they dominated play, but rarely threatened Wales in the final third. There was plenty of width, but play was sometimes too predictable, and Kieft never saw a cross. The Netherlands improved after the break as Bosman replaced the injured Rijkaard. His more natural abilities as an attacking midfielder made something tick in the team in the absence of Gullit. Wales, as expected, suffered from the absence of their star players, but perhaps more so Horne and Ratcliffe than Hughes and Rush. In a line-up with sharp segregation between defensive and attacking duties, the forwards did a decent job upfront, but needed to have taken the goal scoring opportunities they were given in order to get a result here.
1 Southall 6.9
His dependable self. Nothing he could do with the two goals.
2 Blackmore 7.1 Denies Rob Witschge all evening. Cautious about going forward.
3 Bowen 6.8 Given some worries by the Dutch right hand side. His goal is emblatic: a bad cross followed up by tackling the ball into the goal.
4 Nicholas 6.4 Important in the build-up, but his passing this evening is sub-standard.
5 Hopkins 6.7 Marking Kieft, and doesn’t allow him to turn around with the ball.
6 Maguire 6.4 Cover defender. Often seems surplus to requirement. Two long shots in the first half.
7 Phillips 6.6 Tigerish in midfield. Not much impact attacking-wise.
8 Saunders 6.9 Lively, but less so after being told to play on the right hand side after the break. Presented with two good opportunities.
9 Roberts 6.5 Decent start to the game when coming deep, but gradually disappears.
(14 Jones – Very little impact while he is on.)
10 Williams 6.7
(16 Pascoe – Brings some new impetus to the team.)
11 Allen 6.8 Causes some trouble with his movement and pace.
1 van Breukelen 6.7 Confident display, but probably partly do blame for the goal.
2 van Aerle 7.4 Benefited from a very quiet Welsh left hand side, and very active going forward. His crosses have been criticized, but the assist here was excellent.
3 Rutjes 7.3 Hard-tackling and strong headers. Excellent goal also.
4 R. Koeman 7.4 Excels with the ball at feet. Dictates tempo, switches play from side to side. Question mark about the goal they conceded.
5 Koot 7.0 Some good interceptions, good in the air. Not as confident as the rest.
6 Wouters 6.8 Honest and battling performance. Rarely going forward.
7 van ‘t Schip 7.2 An attacking outlet from his wide position. Good report with van Aerle.
8 Hofkens 7.0 Few problems with Saunders. Useful support going forward, a few overlapping runs.
9 Kieft 6.8 Restricted to play with his back toward goal, which he does ok, but should ideally have seen more action inside the penalty area.
10 Rijkaard 6.8 Asked to attack and creates some havoc with his industry and physique. But suffers when delicate skills are needed. Injured.
(14 Bosman 7.3 A more than useful replacement for Rijkaard, as he has better vision and technique.)
11 Rob Witschge 6.4 Largely forgettable evening. Takes on Blackmore, but fails repeatedly.
(12 van Basten –)