Malen doubles up as Dutch beat Romania to reach Euro 2024 quarters

The victory put the Oranje on course for a quarter-final clash with Turkey or Austria, who beat the Netherlands 3-2 in the group stage.
Romania's forward Denis Dragus (L) and Netherlands' forward Donyell Malen fight for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2024 round of 16 football match between Romania and the Netherlands on July 2, 2024.
Romania's forward Denis Dragus (L) and Netherlands' forward Donyell Malen fight for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2024 round of 16 football match between Romania and the Netherlands on July 2, 2024. (Photo | AFP)

MUNICH: The Netherlands swept into their first European Championship quarter-final since 2008 as Donyell Malen scored twice in a 3-0 win over Romania in the last 16 on Tuesday.

Cody Gakpo gave the Dutch an early lead but they were unable to convert pressure into a crucial second goal until the Liverpool forward set up Malen with seven minutes remaining in Munich.

Romania were gritty but outclassed, lacking the quality to punish their opponents' profligacy before Malen added his second on the counter in stoppage-time.

The victory put the Oranje on course for a quarter-final clash with Turkey or Austria, who beat the Netherlands 3-2 in the group stage.

"We played a good game. I'm very pleased. Especially after the last game we needed a reaction and today was a good step in the right direction," Gakpo said.

"We talked a lot about the aggression, the intensity and defending like a team. It was a good step.

"Sacrifice something for each other and work really hard to be at your best. Good game overall."

Ronald Koeman's side will need to improve their effectiveness in front of goal should they wish to emulate their manager, who was a player for the Dutch when they won the 1988 Euros on German soil.

Koeman said "the only critical point was that it took us too long to score the second one", but praised the performance overall.

"We are Dutch, we have to play well. The performance today was outstanding and that's why we have a chance to continue," added the 61-year-old coach.

"This is the level we need. If we drop our level, we won't make the final."

Romania coach Edward Iordanescu said his team "tried to surprise the Netherlands today and it worked -- until the 20th minute," but added he saw "good things that can inspire us for the future".

Netherlands' forward Cody Gakpo shoots past Romania's midfielder Razvan Marin during the UEFA Euro 2024 round of 16 football match between Romania and the Netherlands on July 2, 2024.
Netherlands' forward Cody Gakpo shoots past Romania's midfielder Razvan Marin during the UEFA Euro 2024 round of 16 football match between Romania and the Netherlands on July 2, 2024.(Photo | AFP)

Gakpo sparks Oranje surge

Prior to the game, Netherlands' captain Virgil van Dijk said his side lacked energy and the "will to win" in the loss to Austria.

But the Dutch were still strangely flat in the early stages despite Van Dijk's rallying cry.

Group E winners Romania, whose 3-0 victory over Ukraine in their opening game, was just their second-ever win in the Euros, pinned the Dutch back early.

Romania went close when Dennis Man latched onto a superb diagonal ball from Nicolae Stanciu, but the Parma winger blasted over.

The Dutch broke Romania's momentum shortly after when Gakpo got on the end of a sweeping move to open the scoring on 20 minutes.

Jerdy Schouten sliced a perfect, long pass through the midfield to Xavi Simons, who found Gakpo on the left flank.

Gakpo eluded Andrei Ratiu and seemed to catch goalkeeper Florin Nita off-guard, blasting in at the near post.

The goal ignited a period of Dutch dominance, Stefan de Vrij heading inches wide five minutes later.

The Netherlands wasted a perfect chance to double their lead with half-time approaching when Denzel Dumfries picked Bogdan Racovitan's pocket and found Simons, who got tangled up and failed to get a decent shot away.

Koeman's team squandered an array of opportunities early in the second half.

Memphis Depay and Van Dijk went agonisingly close before Gakpo's second was ruled out by VAR for offside.

With every missed chance, the nerves in the Dutch camp seemed to grow, but Romania lacked the quality to truly punish them.

Gakpo, the player of the match, took matters into his own hands with seven minutes remaining, dribbling through a crowded penalty area and finding Malen who tapped home.

"We work very hard with each other to do our best and I'm happy I could assist Donnie with his goal today," Gakpo said.

With Romania launching a final attack, Malen broke through on the counter and slid the ball into the goal in the fourth minute of stoppage-time to seal the victory.

The 93rd-minute goal meant substitute Malen was the first Dutch player to score at least two goals in a Euros knock-out tie since Marc Overmars and Patrick Kluivert in a 6-1 win against Yugoslavia in 2000.

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