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Huntelaar saves Dutch with late equalizer against Turkey

March 28, 2015

AMSTERDAM (AP) — Klaas-Jan Huntelaar deflected a Wesley Sneijder shot to score an injury-time equalizer for the Netherlands to draw Turkey 1-1 on Saturday and keep alive its hope of qualifying for next year’s European Championship.

Sneijder initially claimed the goal two minutes into extra time, but it was later awarded to Huntelaar, who had flicked the ball with his head. The strike cancelled out a 37th-minute goal by Sneijder’s Galatasaray teammate, Burak Yilmaz, that long looked like winning the match at Amsterdam Arena.

Missing star forwards Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben and center back Ron Vlaar, the Netherlands looked toothless in attack and fragile in defense throughout much of the match.

Elsewhere, the Czech Republic grabbed a 90th-minute equalizer to salvage a 1-1 draw against Latvia to stay atop Group A, while Iceland beat Kazakhstan 3-0 to stay second. The Netherlands’ draw kept it third.

Coach Guus Hiddink sounded relieved to have taken a point.

“If you lose this match, you totally lose your grip on qualification,” he said.

The Dutch put in their latest faltering display under Hiddink in his second stint in charge. He capped his first term by taking the Netherlands to the 1998 World Cup semifinals in France. But he has failed to galvanize the team since last year’s World Cup.

The Netherlands dominated possession early on to carve out two good chances in the opening 10 minutes.

But Turkey looked dangerous on the break and nearly scored in the 15th before Yilmaz got his goal with a shot that deflected off Bruno Martins Indi after the Dutch defense failed to clear a cross.

“In the first half, we created almost nothing,” Hiddink said. “They ... scored a good goal via Burak, then they built a wall which is difficult to break down.”

The Netherlands pushed forward frantically after the break and midfielder Ibrahim Afellay came close on the hour with a powerful long-range shot that goalkeeper Volkan Babacan tipped over the bar.

Sneijder set his sights on goal with a free kick that went just wide in the 71st, before his strike in extra time deflected off Huntelaar and past Babacan.

Turkey coach Fatih Terim praised his team’s controlled display.

“It is not easy to play the Netherlands in the Netherlands,” he said. “But the team defended well and stayed compact.”

Vaclav Pilar’s equalizer in the last minute of regulation saved a 1-1 home draw for the Czech Republic after Latvia took the lead on the half hour thanks to a swift counterattack goal by Aleksejs Visnakovs. The draw marked the first dropped points by the Czechs in qualifying.

Iceland continued its strong form in qualifying by beating Kazakhstan 3-0 in Astana to take its total to 12 points from five matches.

Veteran Eidur Gudjohnsen celebrated his return from international retirement by opening the scoring with his first goal since 2009, and Birkir Bjarnason scored in each half to complete the win.

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