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Inspired Robben drives Dutch

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June 11, 2006 21:11 IST

The Netherlands made a fine start to their World Cup on Sunday with a goal from the inspired Arjen Robben giving them a 1-0 victory over Serbia & Montenegro.

Marco van Basten's side confirmed their status as serious contenders for the title, dominating possession and combining patient build-up play with neat, quick passing in their opening Group C game.

Robben, comfortably the game's outstanding player, gave the Dutch the lead in the 18th minute with a cool left-footed finish after he raced clear of the Serbian defence to latch on to a pass from Robin van Persie.

The winger could have doubled his tally four minutes later with a fierce shot, which produced a spectacular one-handed save from Dragoslav Jevric.

Robben's pace consistently caused problems for Serbian stand-in right back Nenad Djordjevic, starting as part of a defensive reshuffle caused by centre back Nemanja Vidic's suspension.

Serbia & Montenegro coach Ilija Petkovic was forced to take Djordjevic off before half time, bringing on Ognjen Koroman.

His side threatened more in the second half but could not find the killer touch in front of goal.

Koroman unleashed a fierce shot in the 71st minute which Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Saar only gathered at the second attempt.

Both sides struggled at times with their footing on the Zentralstadion pitch, the turf cutting up despite the perfect weather conditions of blue sky and bright sunshine.

Andrew Gray