Netherlands 6-0 Northern Ireland

By Lyle JacksonBBC Sport NI

Northern Ireland conceded six goals for the first time in 51 years as their inexperienced side slumped to a heavy defeat against the Netherlands.

An unmarked Robin van Persie headed the Dutch opener in the 11th minute.

Wesley Sneijder curled in a free-kick and van Persie's penalty made it 3-0 after a Shane Ferguson handball.

Ibrahim Afellay shot in a fourth before the break and scored again early in the second half with Ron Vlaar completing the rout 12 minutes from time.

Nigel de Jong of the Netherlands in action against Northern Ireland's Michael Duff
Nigel de Jong of the Netherlands in action against Northern Ireland's Michael Duff

It was no more than a stroll for the dominant Dutch who are expected to be strong challengers for Euro 2012 where their Group B opponents are Denmark, Portugal and Germany.

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill had to go into this daunting fixture without a host of first choice regulars including Steven Davis, Aaron Hughes, Jonny Evans and Chris Brunt.

Some will have questioned the Irish FA's wisdom in accepting such a tough assignment in early June when top flight NI players traditionally don't make themselves available.

But, despite the huge gulf in class, NI boss O'Neill will point to the experience his international novices gained in the lion's den of Amsterdam Arena.

Northern Ireland did make a promising break early on with Andrew Little running into some space on the right. The versatile Rangers man got into the box, but was thwarted by a Jetro Willems challenge.

That was to be a fleeting moment of encouragement for the visitors as the Netherlands took the lead in the 11th minute and proceeded to go on a ruthless rampage.

Skipper Mark van Bommel and Sneijder played a short corner before the latter curled a cross to the far post where van Persie headed home unmarked.

Four minutes later it was 2-0 from a free-kick awarded after Michael Duff had felled Van Bommel in a central position 25 yards out.

Sneijder's right-foot curler beat the despairing dive of keeper Lee Camp.

The Netherlands made it three in the 28th minute after the referee awarded a penalty for handball against Ferguson.

Van Persie sent Camp the wrong way with a clean strike, making it goal number 28 at international level for the Arsenal striker.

The Dutch bagged a fourth after 36 minutes when Arjen Robben fed Van Persie, who touched the ball on to Barcelona midfielder Affelay who hit a low shot across Camp, who got a hand to it but could not push it wide of his far post.

Keeper Roy Carroll was one of Northern Ireland's half-time substitutes and he was picking the ball out of the net inside six minutes as van Persie laid the ball back for Affelay to slot in a precise finish.

The Netherlands had chances for more and went close when sub Rafael van der Vaart's 75th-minute strike came back off the inside of an upright.

The sixth came when Feyenoord defender Vlaar powered in a near-post header from a corner.

So a tough night for Northern Ireland and much work for boss O'Neill to do as they have just a home friendly against Finland in August before the World Cup qualifiers start with a 7 September trip to Russia.

The last time Northern Ireland conceded six was when they were beaten 6-1 by Scotland in 1961.

Netherlands: Stekelenburg, Van Der Wiel, Heitinga, Vlaar, Willems, Afellay, Van Bommel, Nigel De Jong, Robben, Sneijder, van Persie.

Subs: Vorm, Bouma, Kuyt, Huntelaar, Schaars, Strootman, Luuk De Jong, Narsingh, Boulahrouz, Van der Vaart, Krul.

Northern Ireland: Camp, Hodson, Duff, McPake, Lafferty, McCann, Norwood, Clingan, Ferguson, Little, Grigg.

Subs: Carroll, Carson, Healy, Coates, McCourt, McGinn, McQuoid, Hughes, McArdle, McGivern, Donnelly, Mannus.

Referee: Robert Schorgenhofer (Austria)

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