Two-time finalists the Netherlands scored a scrappy 2-1 win over debutants Slovakia through goals from star players Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder to qualify for the quarterfinals in the FIFA World Cup.
The ‘Oranje’,who had won all their three group matches,were clearly the better side with more ball possession and midfield domination but somehow failed to still produce the flair and free-flowing football known of them.
Robben,who was in the starting line-up for the first time in the tournament after an injury before the World Cup,struck in the 18th minute with a fabulous finish before UEFA Champions League winner and Inter Milan midfielder Sneijder scored the second goal in the 84th minute at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
World Cup debutants Slovakia,who shocked Italy 3-2 in a group match to sent the four-time champions home,had very few clear openings in the entire match but converted a penalty through Robert Vittek in the last few seconds of the four-minute injury time (90+4).
The Netherlands,who were the losing finalists in 1974 and 1978,will play the winner of the round of 16 match between Brazil and Chile,in the quarterfinal on July 2.
Dutch midfield general Wesley Sneijder got the first shot at the goal off a Robben only to see it sail over the bar in the fifth minute.
Six minutes later,Sneijder could have scored but shot straight to the Slovakia keeper Jan Mucha after being sent in the clear inside the area.
The Netherlands’ pressure was tremendous but Robben should take the credit for scoring a gem of a goal in the 18th minute.
A long clearance from the Dutch half saw Robben cutting through two defenders from near the right flank and Bayern Munich winger created some space before sending a low left-footer to beat the Slovakia keeper,who was diving to his left,and into the net.
Robben,who played for 20 minutes in the Netherlands’ last group match against Cameroon,was though booked for a yellow card by the Spanish referee Alberto Undiano in the 31st minute for handling the ball and was substituted in the 71st minute.
Arsenal striker Robin van Persie got a shot at the goal in the 41st minute from outside the Slovakia box but missed the target.
Ten minutes into the second session,Robben had an almost similar shot which had produced the first goal but this time after cutting through three defender his low left footer from inside the area was parried by keeper Jan Mucha.