SALVADOR Brazil (Reuters) - Stunning goals from Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben fired the Netherlands to a 5-1 demolition of Spain who endured a miserable start to their World Cup defence in a pulsating Group B game on Friday.
In complete contrast to the tetchy World Cup final between the sides in 2010 which Spain won 1-0, the Dutch took sweet revenge with a vibrant display capped off by two goals each for Van Persie and Robben and one by defender Stefan de Vrij.
“I certainly didn’t expect this result but I did expect us to score in the way we did,” Dutch coach Louis van Gaal told reporters.
“Spain were always going to come at us and we catch them on the counter. My players did it perfectly. It’s far better than we ever expected.”
Only once before had Spain conceded five times in a World Cup game, on Brazilian turf in 1950 in a 6-1 loss to the hosts. The Dutch mauling at Salvador’s Fonte Nova arena was also the worst ever start for defending world champions.
“I can’t find words to explain five goals,” Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said.
“We have never been a very defensive side but always coped well defending. Today we’ve been very weak.
“We kept on fighting but they were physically stronger as the game went on and that made a difference... It is now a delicate situation for us which we will and try and overcome in our next game against Chile and then see what happens.”
Spain, also 2008 and 2012 European champions, had been expected to dictate proceedings with their slick passing style and normal service looked to be established when a coolly converted 27th-minute Xabi Alonso penalty gave them the lead.
Van Gaal had set his Dutch side up to press and look for the quick ball and it paid dividends just before the break in spectacular fashion when Van Persie equalized superbly.
The Netherlands’ key man sneaked in between defenders Sergio Ramos and Jordi Alba in the 44th minute to meet a searching Daley Blind cross with a powerful diving header that left goalkeeper Iker Casillas rooted to the spot.
Moments before Van Persie’s goal Spain missed a glorious chance to double their lead when midfielder David Silva’s cheeky chip was pushed wide for a corner.
It was a wasted opportunity they came to rue.
After the break the Dutch hurried Spain in possession, pouring forward at every opportunity, and went ahead after 53 minutes when Robben got on the end of another superb Blind lobbed pass before turning Gerard Pique and holding off Ramos to fire home from seven meters.
Del Bosque reacted by swapping Alonso for the more attack-minded Pedro and Brazilian-born striker Diego Costa, booed with every touch by the locals, went off for Fernando Torres.
The match opened up but in the Netherlands’ favor.
Van Persie rattled the crossbar with a ferocious right-foot volley before De Vrij, whose tackle on Costa had led to the penalty, stole in on 64 minutes at the back post to convert a free kick after Casillas who was pressurized by Van Persie.
It got worse for Spain as Van Persie added a fourth after taking advantage of a sloppy touch by Casillas to slot home in the 72nd minute and the excellent Robben sent the orange-clad Dutch fans into raptures with a brilliant fifth eight minutes later.
The rapid forward, who had spurned a glorious chance to give the Netherlands their first world title four years ago when bearing down on Casillas, flew out of his half on to a through ball before toying with the Spanish rearguard and belting home.
As the game closed out traditional chants of “ole”, usually hailing the dominant tiki-taka style of Spain, greeted every Dutch touch of the ball as their disbelieving supporters celebrated.
The defeat left Del Bosque sat disconsolately in his dugout long after his squad had disappeared down the tunnel and although he would not have enjoyed the Dutch lap of honor, he may take comfort from remembering Spain lost their opening match in 2010 1-0 to Switzerland before going on to lift the trophy.
Additional reporting by Mark Gleeson and Iain Rogers; Editing by Ed Osmond