FIFA World Cup Qualifying: Estonia 2 Netherlands 2
The Netherlands rescued their unbeaten record in FIFA World Cup qualifying with an injury-time penalty to secure a 2-2 draw with Estonia.
Louis van Gaal’s side had previously won all six of their matches in Group D of the European qualification section, but they had to rely on a controversial late spot kick from Robin van Persie to secure a point.
Konstantin Vassiljev struck twice for the hosts and looked to have sealed a memorable victory for the hosts, but this was cruelly taken away from them in stoppage time.
Arjen Robben broke the deadlock with the visitors' first shot on target to record his 19th goal for his country. The 29-year-old curled his effort beyond the reach of Sergei Pareiko in the Estonian goal from inside the penalty area.
But their lead only lasted 15 minutes as Estonia equalised somewhat against the run of play. Vassiljev broke through a weak challenge 25 yards from goal and sent a low shot past Michel Vorm.
The 29-year-old then doubled his tally with a cute lob just before the hour, as he met a perfect through ball from Joel Lindpere and lifted the ball over Vorm.
But Van Persie broke the hearts of the hosts at the death after winning a penalty from what appeared to be a good challenge from Raio Piiroja.
Piiroja received a second yellow card and Manchester United star Van Persie thumped the spot kick into the back of the net.
Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal recalled Wesley Sneijder to the starting line-up after a thigh injury ruled Rafael van der Vaart out.
Vorm was preferred in goal to Kenneth Vermeer, while Jetro Willems started at full-back in place of Daley Blind and Stijn Schaars took Jonathan De Guzman’s place in midfield.
There were six changes for the hosts, with Dmitri Kruglov, Ragner Klavan, Aleksandr Dmitrijev, Martin Vunk and Henrik Ojamaa all starting.
However, their chances of doing so took an immediate blow as Robben opened the scoring for the visitors after just three minutes.
The Bayern Munich winger received the ball on the right-hand side of the penalty area, cut inside his marker and fired a powerful shot past Pareiko.
Despite all the Netherlands’ pressure, they were pegged back in the 19th minute as Vassiljev struck from 25 yards.
The midfielder picked up the ball in the centre of the Netherlands half, broke through the challenge of Stefan de Vrij and lashed the ball low into the bottom corner, giving Vorm no chance.
The visitors responded well and continued controlling proceedings, going close through Sneijder and Robben, although Pareiko was not stretched for the remainder of the first half.
Van Gaal sent his side out with renewed vigour after the break but they met a resilient Estonia defence that proved hard to break down.
And Vassiljev added his second goal of the game in the 57th minute with a superbly taken strike.
The midfielder broke beyond the Netherlands defence to latch onto Joel Lindpere’s clever throughball, and produced an ice-cool dinked finish over Vorm.
Van Gaal threw Dirk Kuyt and Jonathan de Guzman on to try and find a goal but it was Van Persie who rescued them and preserved their unbeaten record.