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Netherlands defence off to winning start

Slovenia 1-3 Netherlands
Unperturbed by a partisan crowd, the holders assumed their place at the top of Group B thanks to goals from Rai Vloet, Jeroen Lumu and Nathan Ake.

The Netherlands celebrate after Rai Vloet (left) opened the scoring
The Netherlands celebrate after Rai Vloet (left) opened the scoring ©Sportsfile

The Netherlands got their UEFA European Under-17 Championship defence off to a winning start on Friday evening, beating hosts Slovenia 3-1 in Maribor.

Albert Stuivenberg had played down his charges' chances of retaining the title, but on this evidence they look likely to reach the business end of the tournament at least. Unperturbed by a sizeable home support, they were 2-0 in front at half-time thanks to Rai Vloet and Jeroen Lumu. Relatively unruffled thereafter, the Netherlands' place atop Group B was assured by captain Nathan Ake's second-half header, Luka Zahovič's effort no more than a consolation for Slovenia.

It had all started so positively for the hosts, however; buoyed by the crowd, they were not afraid to chance their arm early on and were a whisker away from taking the lead when Dino Hotič flashed a 25-metre shot wide.

As Stuivenberg's side found their feet, though, it was one-way traffic. Gregor Zabret was in the right place to deny Wouter Marinus, Vloet and Thom Haye in the opening stages but it proved an unlucky 13th minute for the Slovenia keeper. Haye put in the legwork down the right and pulled across goal for Vloet to turn in.

Lumu missed the target when in behind on the half-hour but was on hand to make amends before the interval, heading Marinus's cross into the ground and past Zabret.

Slovenia did not allow their heads to drop, but, Domen Črnigoj's fierce drive aside, they failed to provide Oranje keeper Nick Olij with any undue alarm. Zabret, by contrast, was picking the ball out of his net again just after the hour, Ake swooping to apply the finishing touch to Lumu's delivery.

Zahovič's glancing header did at least give the Stadion Ljudski vrt reason to cheer, but it was too little too late.