Scotland’s fine run in the Uefa under-17 European Finals came to an end at Ta’ Qali National Stadium in Malta last night against a Dutch side that were just too strong and ran out 5-0 winners in their semi-final match up.
Scorers: Netherlands U17 - Verdonk (35 pen), Nouri (38), Bergwijn (57), Owobowale (59), Van Der Moot (73)
The young Scots battled manfully but PSV Eindhoven youngster Steven Bergwijn was the star of the show and his side’s win denies Scotland the chance to face England in the Final.
The English, who lost 2-0 to Netherlands earlier in the tournament, defeated Portugal 2-0 yesterday afternoon with goals from Chelsea striker Dominic Solanke and Patrick Roberts of Fulham. The Scots had qualified for their final four showdown after beating Switzerland 3-1, and Craig Wighton and Ryan Hardie who turned that game around when they came off the bench were rewarded with starting roles in Scott Gemmill’s side.
The Scots in their change kit of pink, white and yellow quickly won a free kick in a good position but it was wasted. Netherlands broke with pace on the right, with Joe Thomson hacking the ball clear, but the rapid burst up the park gave a glimpse of the damage the Dutch could do.
Goalkeeper Robbie McCrorie, who was a hero in the group wins over Germany and the Swiss, saved Scotland on five minutes when he tipped over a Bergwijn header from the penalty spot.
Wighton had Scotland’s first effort with a drive from 25 yards on nine minutes and Kyle Cameron followed that up with a close range header that Yanick van Osch in the Dutch goal was well positioned to save.
Bergwijn upped his game with 20 minutes gone and the striker came close with three great efforts in the space of 90 seconds. The striker’s first attempt from 20 yards just cleared McCrorie’s bar and he then curled wide from almost the same spot.
Bergwijn was not being contained by the Scottish defence and he wriggled free again to fire in another shot and this time his effort came crashing back off the bar. As the Dutch dominated Donny van de Beek held off the attention of four defenders to get an attempt in on goal but McCrorie saved.
The goal that Scotland had been desperate to avoid conceding came five minutes from the break when Van de Beek was tripped as he darted into the box by Cameron Ballantyne. The Dutch youngster was heading away from goal but such was the pressure on Scotland that no-one could blame the Dundee United youngster for his challenge.
Calvin Verdonk sent McCrorie one way and the ball the other for 1-0 and it became 2-0 two minutes later with Bergwijn playing a key role.
The Eindhoven youngster sped away from Jack Breslin on the right and hit over a low cross that looked to be cleared by Aidan Nesbit. However the midfielder could only divert the ball against McCrorie’s knee and Ajax kid Abdelhak Nouri swept home the loose ball from six yards.
Scotland looked to hit back at the start of the second half but an ambitious effort from 35 yards from Jake Sheppard never troubled Van Osch. However four corners in quick succession showed the desire the Scots had to make a game of things although the lack of a clear cut chance from this pressure gave a strong indication of the scale of their challenge.
The rain started to fall heavily on the sunshine island and, as it gathered intensity, Scottish hopes of a comeback were washed away with another two goal quick-fire blast from the Dutch.
Bergwijn got the goal he deserved on 57 minutes when Segun Owobowale reached the by-line and cut the ball back for van der Beek to roll it into the path of the winger. Two minutes later it was 4-0 when Owobowale cut in from the right wing and sent a ferocious left-footed shot home from 16 yards via the underside of the bar.
Scotland to their credit refused to crumble and Hardie was denied a goal when his header after a fine move was tipped over by van Osch.
With their final against England on Wednesday in mind, the Dutch took off Bergwijn but there was little respite for Scotland as his replacement Dani van der Moot was soon in offensive action with a drive that flashed just over.
A fifth goal came on 73 minutes when the Dutch used their electric pace to devastating effect once more after a Scottish corner was cleared. Within seconds of the flag-kick Nouri was through on goal and although his effort was stopped by McCrorie, Van der Moot side-footed home the loose ball.