Klaas Jan Huntelaar's header earns Netherlands late point against Turkey
Amsterdam, March 29 (IANS) The Netherlands drew 1-1 in the Euro 2016 qualifying match against Turkey here thanks to a late strike by Klaas Jan Huntelaar. Both teams needed a good result to maintain in the race for one of the top positions in Group A, but the pressure was especially on the home team on Saturday.
Under Louis van Gaal, the Dutch finished third at the 2014 World Cup. But under his successor Guus Hiddink, "Oranje" had a dramatic start with six points from the first four Euro 2016 qualifying matches.
The Dutch had to deal with the Turkish challenge without star strikers Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben, who were both absent with injuries. The Turks also missed an important player in suspended Arda Turan.
Sneijder captained the side and equaled Frank de Boer in second place on Holland's all-time appearances list with 112 internationals. Only Edwin van der Sar earned more Dutch caps, with 130.
Although the Netherlands had most of the game in the opening phase the Turks had the best chance. Burak Yilmaz was completely free to shoot, but his shot was saved by the Netherlands defender Bruno Martins Indi. The second chance also was for the visitors, Mehmet Topal's shot went wide.
In the 37th minute, the Turks did find the net. Galatasaray striker Burak Yilmaz played himself free again in the Dutch defence and his fierce shot went in through the knee of Martins Indi. The goal was cheered by the many Turkish fans behind that goal.
The Dutch were not able to create open chances in the first half and in the second part former Turkey head coach Hiddink brought in forward Luciano Narsingh for midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum. Narsingh wasted an opportunity, while another substitute Jetro Willems also failed to hit the target and debuting striker Bas Dost also couldn't change the score.
In the 92nd minute, Sneijder, who plays for Turkish club Galatasaray, avoided a historic home defeat for the Netherlands. His shot was deflected off Huntelaar’s head and went past Turkey goalkeeper Volkan Babacan.
The Dutch now maintained their two-point lead over Turkey with seven points from five matches in Group A. Czech Republic, who dropped points against Latvia (1-1), kept the lead and Iceland, which was too strong for Kazakhstan (0-3), held the second place.
In Euro 2016 qualifying, the group winners and runners-up plus the third-placed team with the best record in their section progress directly to join hosts France in the finals. The other eight third-placed sides will go to a play-off over two legs for the remaining four berths.