Dutch blushes were spared by Marc van Bommel as the PSV Eindhoven midfield player's long-range shot six minutes from time escaped the attentions of goalkeeper Evghenii Hmaruc and provided Dick Advocaat's side with a fortuitous 2-1 away success against Moldova.
Still on track
The victory ensures that the Netherlands' bid for qualification for the UEFA EURO 2004™ finals remains on course, but they had to come from a goal behind against a spirited Moldovan side that seemed to have made their point before Van Bommel's late intervention.
The hosts scored with their first meaningful attack of the match in the 18th minute when Vadim Boret fired the ball into the top left-hand corner of Ronald Waterreus' net from 18 metres. The goal came to the delight of the 14,000 crowd at Tiraspol's Sheriff stadium, but their enthusiasm was tempered by the interval as the Oranje levelled.
Almost inevitably the prolific Ruud van Nistelrooij was involved, and the Manchester United FC striker got his name on the scoresheet when he rose highest to beat Hmaruc to Boudewijn Zenden's cross seven minutes before the break. Earlier the visitors carved out the first opportunity after nine minutes when Clarence Seedorf's header was saved by Hmaruc, but otherwise the Moldovan defence, marshalled by Alexandru Covalenco and Valeriu Catinsus, kept the high octane Dutch attack at bay.
The Dutch raised their game after the interval when Patrick Kluivert's header was narrowly wide of the target from Seedorf's cross. Although they failed to create many clear-cut chances, the incessant Dutch attacks via Van Nistelrooij, Zenden and Kluivert caused the Moldovans to tire badly in the latter stages of the second half. From the embers of one such attack, Van Bommel regained possession and his shot goalwards from 25 metres seemed to have caught out Hmaruc as the Moldovan keeper missed the ball completely in front of goal.