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Netherlands into Euro quarterfinals on strength of Gakpo, Malen efforts vs. Romania

The Netherlands reached its first European Championship quarterfinal in 16 years with a 3-0 win over Romania on Tuesday.

Cody Gakpo broke the deadlock in the 20th minute and Donyell Malen scored two late goals to send the Dutch to their first quarterfinal in the tournament since 2008.

The Dutch had missed a plethora of earlier opportunities to add to the lead and captain Virgil van Dijk also hit the woodwork. It was nevertheless a much-improved display compared to its disappointing group stage performance, which ended in a 3-2 loss to Austria.

The Netherlands might have an immediate chance for revenge as there could be a quick rematch in Berlin on Saturday if Austria beats Turkey in the final round of 16 match later Tuesday.

It was Gakpo’s third goal of the tournament, making him joint top scorer along with Germany’s Jamal Musiala, Georges Mikautadze of Georgia and Ivan Schranz of Slovakia.

Romania had dominated possession until Gakpo’s goal, but never really tested Netherlands goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen. Instead the opener came when Xavi Simons surged forward before finding Gakpo on the left. The Liverpool forward cut inside the blue-haired Andrei Rațiu and fired into the near bottom corner.

The goal seemed to give the Dutch confidence and they had several chances to extend their lead. A huge section of their orange-clad fans thought they scored again six minutes later when Stefan De Vrij was allowed a free header on a corner but he planted it just wide of the right post, rippling the sidenetting.

A goalsaving tackle from Radu Dragusin denied Memphis Depay a tap-in, while the Netherlands went even closer to doubling its lead on the stroke of halftime.

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Denzel Dumfries did well to keep the ball from crossing the byline and cut it back to a completely unmarked Simons, who perhaps should have hit it first time but instead took a touch allowing the Romania defenders to close him down and, under pressure, he fired wide of the right post.

Romania came very close to putting the ball in its own net when Bogdan Racovițan cleared Depay’s effort off the line and it came off teammate Marius Marin, but the ball fell into the arms of goalkeeper Florin Niță.

Van Dijk also saw a header come off the right post.

Gakpo had a second-half goal chalked off for offside, but turned provider seven minutes from time as he managed to just keep the ball in play, under pressure from Dragusin, and proded it back from the byline for Malen to poke home.

And the Dutch capped a dominant performance in stoppage time when Simons released Malen for a surging run from the halfway line before slotting past Niță.

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