The Netherlands had to settle for a 1-1 draw in their UEFA EURO 2004™ qualifier against the Czech Republic in Rotterdam.
The Czech visitors equalised through Jan Koller after a Ruud van Nistelrooij strike late in the first half had given the hosts the lead. The result leaves both sides level at the top of the Group 3 table with seven points from three games, with Austria a point behind both.
The Netherlands got off to a flying start at the Feijenoord stadium, putting the Czech goal under pressure after three minutes when Tomas Ujfalusi was penalised for a foul on Van Nistelrooij just outside the penalty area. Clarence Seedorf took the free-kick, but though his effort beat Petr Cech, it could not quite squeeze inside the goalkeeper's left-hand post.
After eleven minutes, Van Nistelrooij himself went close as he surged in from the right to meet Fernando Ricksen's pass only to see his shot flash just wide. Although the visitors gradually recovered from the Netherlands' early flourish, producing some stylish approach play, the nearest they got to a goal was when Tomáš Rosický's 25-metre drive sped wide of the Dutch post.
Van Nistelrooij goal
The home side took the lead in added time at the end of the first half when Rafael van der Vaart, a 39th-minute substitute for the injured Giovanni van Bronckhorst, fed the ball through to Edgar Davids on the left. The Juventus FC midfield player played a fine ball to the far post which the well-placed Van Nistelrooij headed past Cech.
The Manchester United FC striker came close to doubling his side's advantage after 57 minutes when he headed a Clarence Seedorf cross just wide, but two minutes later the Czech Republic demonstrated their attacking edge when Rosický burst into the area and rolled a shot past Roland Waterreus in the Dutch goal, only for Jaap Stam to stop the ball on the line.
Rosický was replaced by Milan Baroš after 68 minutes, and the young Liverpool FC striker proved to be a lucky charm, as with practically his first touch of the game he laid the ball on to Koller to beat Waterreus from close range. The visitors seemed satisfied with a draw from then onwards, and despite one headed effort from Patrick Kluivert which spun wide, the Dutch did not come close to a winner.
Netherlands coach Dick Advocaat was less than impressed by his side's defending for the equaliser, saying: "We created six chances in the first half and we played exactly like I wanted. The Czech goal was unnecessary and meant that we had to take more risks. Looking at the whole match we dropped two important points today."
His opposite number, Karel Bruckner, was significantly happier. "We knew what to expect considering the attacking power of the Dutch," he said. "I think my team did well apart from the moment in added time at the end of the first half. The goal changed my plans because I wanted to replace Rosický at half-time, because he still is not 100 per cent."