Russia stun Dutch, enter semis

Basel, June 21:

Russia scored two goals in extra time on Saturday to send the team into the semi-finals of the European Championship with a 3-1 upset win over the Netherlands.

Dimitry Torbinski and Andrei Arshavin scored within five minutes of each other in the second half of extra time. Roman Pavlyuchenko also scored for Russia, while Ruud van Nistelrooy scored for the Dutch in the 86th. Russia, coached by former Netherlands manager Guus Hiddink, will face either Spain or Italy in the semi-finals on Thursday in Vienna, Austria.

Torbinski surged toward the far post in the 112th minute and collected a deep cross from Arshavin, who scored the final goal in the 116th. Van Nistelrooy had temporarily saved the Dutch late in the match, proving no one is more lethal from close range. From a free kick by Rafael van der Vaart, he wrestled away from Sergei Ignashevich and scored with a diving header at the far post.

In extra time, the inexperienced Russians hung in and scored their third straight upset victory. And after Germany had beaten the sparkling Portugal, Turkey edged surging Croatia, another stunner was in the making.

Ruud van Nistlerooy sent the Netherlands into extra time, scoring an 86th-minute goal for a 1-1 draw. Roman Pavlyuchenko had given the Russians the lead with his third goal of the tournament in the 56th. Russia went ahead when Sergei Semak send a low cross into the penalty area, where Pavlyuchenko beat Joris Mathijsen for pace and scored into the near corner. Van Nistlerooy’s diving header off a free kick from Wesley Sneijder sent the match to an extra 30 minutes.

There were only a few thousand Russians within a sea of orange among the 38,374 fans, but they kept chanting “Rus-sia” long after the tens of thousands of oranje fans had fell silent.

Goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar was by far the best Dutch player, the best possible indication how poorly they played for much of the match. The Manchester United goalkeeper had to make three crucial saves in the first half alone.

Again, Andrei Arshavin was Russia’s key man to pressure the defense. The forward scored and set up a second to move Russia past Sweden and into the quarter-finals. Despite containing the likes of Italy’s Luca Toni and French Thierry Henry early in the tournament, the Dutch defense suddenly looked weak. Arshavin’s best move came in the 31st minute when he won the ball in his own half, moved upfield, was served a good pass and with an angled shot forced Van der Sar into a sterling save.

It showed how Russia played: with physical passion, confidence belying their experience and the slickness of moves that the Dutch thought they had made their trademark in the tournament.