Two swift counterattacks and a controversial goal led the Netherlands to a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Italy in their Group C opener at Euro 2008.
Ruud van Nistelrooy had the best of the early chances for either side in the 18th minute when he was put in on goal against a charging Gianluigi Buffon, but the striker stumbled trying to go around him and the chance went begging.
It wouldn’t remain scoreless for long though as van Nistelrooy scored in the 26th minute. Buffon punched away a corner kick as far as Joris Mathijsen who played the ball back to Giovanni van Bronckhorst. The defender then fired in a shot that was directed in by van Nistelrooy, who appeared to be offside by a wide margin, but the flag stayed down.
Replays showed Christian Panucci lying beyond the end line, but the rules indicate that he was still an active player and, thus, van Nistelrooy was not offside and the goal stood.
Five minutes later, the Dutch extended the margin with a great counterattack. Van Bronckhorst cleared a corner kick off of the line before racing down the left flank. He crossed to the right onto the head of Dirk Kuyt before Wesley Sneijder volleyed brilliantly past Buffon for a 2-0 lead.
Missed chances by the Dutch in the first half kept it at 2-0 until the break, before the Italians came out strong in the second period. Substitute Alessandro Del Piero had two great chances and Andrea Pirlo saw a brilliant free kick saved well by Edwin van der Sar.
On the ensuing counterattack, Kuyt crossed into the area after Buffon saved his first effort, and the ball found the head of van Bronckhorst who put in off a deflection for the third.
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