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Dutch stunned by draw

Saturday, 9 October 2004

By Igor Panevski

[1] F.Y.R. Macedonia earned one of the best results in their short international history with a 2-2 draw against the Netherlands in FIFA World Cup qualifying Group 1. The minnows twice fought back from a goal behind as Goran Pandev and Aco Stojkov pulled back efforts by Wilfred Bouma and Dirk Kuijt for their more fancied opponents.

Frantic finale

[2] The first half was devoid of opportunities until it suddenly burst into life in its closing stages with two goals. In the 43rd minute a corner was swung in by the Dutch and defender Bouma rose highest to put the visitors ahead.

Stoppage time stunner

[3] The visitors were just contemplating taking a lead into the half-time break when F.Y.R. Macedonia stunned them with an equaliser in added time. A long ball found Stojkov who in turn fed Pandev who defied a tight angle to slot the ball in from five metres out.

Dutch domination

[4] After the interval the Dutch, clearly shaken up by coach Marco van Basten words, came out with attacking intent and dominated the early passages of play. On 58 minutes, home goalkeeper Jane Nikoloski needed to be on top form to deny a Kuijt header, but seven minutes later the Feyenoord striker made his mark. A strike by Romeo Castelen found its way through to Kuijt who, from close range, made no mistake.

Deadly combination

[5] F.Y.R. Macedonia, who famously also drew away to England in the qualifying competition for UEFA EURO 2004™, did not drop their heads however, and on 70 minutes they were back on level terms. The combination of Pandev and Stojkov was again at the heart of things for the home team as the AS Fidelis Andria player drilled the ball past Edwin van der Sar from the right-side of the area when ten metres out.

Late chance

[6] As one would expect it was the Dutch visitors who finished the match the stronger. However, despite mounting pressure on the home defence they could not find a way through. And, in the dying moments of the match, the home side could have snatched an unexpected winner. Van Der Sar was alert though as he stopped a header from Aleksandar Bajevski.

Centenary celebration

[7] The game was the 99th official match for the Macedonian national team. For their centenary they visit Andorra on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Netherlands, who now sit five points behind group 1 leading duo Finland and Romania, face the Finns in the Amsterdam ArenA the same night.

Edgar Davids of the Netherlands with Mile Krstev of F.Y.R. Macedonia