There was no 5-1 this time, but the Netherlands again came out on top against Spain, with a 2-0 friendly victory in Amsterdam. More than nine months on from their memorable World Cup contest, Spain entered with the better form but left with another defeat after two early quick-fire goals from Stefan de Vrij and Davy Klaassen from which the visitors could not recover.
While he had stressed that the result was immaterial ahead of the high-profile contest, it is none the less likely to come as a major boost for Netherlands boss Guus Hiddink. Since replacing Louis van Gaal following the side’s run to the semifinals in Brazil, the Netherlands have made a desperately poor start to qualifying for Euro 2016. Indeed, only a late equalizer at home to Turkey at the weekend prevented them from slipping out of even a playoff berth in their group and piling yet more pressure on the under-fire Hiddink.
Yet it was they that prospered on this night after two fine goals punished a much-changed Spain team. With a lineup missing the likes of Sergio Ramos, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets, and starting without the scorer of their only goal last time out against Ukraine, Alvaro Morata, Spain were shaky at the back and lacked a cutting edge up front.
It was a dream start for the Netherlands. The first goal came 13 minutes in, courtesy of a wonderful cross from Wesley Sneijder. The Galatasaray man had seen his corner half-cleared, but when it was returned out to him on the left, he whipped a sensational cross into the box that allowed De Vrij to beat Raul Albiol in the air and head past David de Gea from eight yards.
It was to quickly get even better for the hosts. A fine move down the left culminated with the dangerous Memphis Depay laying the ball inside to Jetro Willems to poke instantly square for Klaassen. While De Gea did well to stop the midfielder’s first attempt, he could do nothing to prevent the ball going straight back out to Klaassen, who struck high into the roof of the net at the second attempt.
After such a poor start, Spain recovered their poise. Yet they struggled to mount a serious threat to the Dutch goal, with debutante Juanmi going the closest with a neat turn and shot from the edge of the box that flew just wide. That changed at the start of the second half, when the visitors spurned a fine chance to pull a goal back. From Juan Bernat’s devilish low ball across the box, Fabregas looked set to turn it into the net, but instead failed to make clean contact with his attempted flick.
The Netherlands should have extended their lead when another majestic Sneijder cross went unrewarded by Bruno Martins Indi’s header down into the turf and up over the bar. At the other end, Martins Indi was again looking less than assured, but despite Spain improving going forward in the second half they were unable to take advantage. David Silva’s strike was ruled out for offside, while substitute debutante Vitolo dragged a shot poorly wide of the post as Spain went down to their third straight friendly defeat.