Muldur own goal sends Netherlands into Euro 2024 semis

BERLIN — An own goal by Mert Muldur completed a dramatic comeback for the Netherlands on Saturday as they overcame a tenacious Turkey 2-1 to book a Euro 2024 semi-final meeting with England.

The defender bundled the ball into his own net in the 76th minute under pressure from Cody Gakpo as the Dutch bounced back from a poor first-half display to win a bruising clash and complete the final four line-up.

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Stefan de Vrij had equalised only six minutes earlier after Turkey went into the break 1-0 up from Samet Akaydin’s 35th- minute header.

Turkey rode waves of passionate support at the Olympiastadion to put themselves on course for an unlikely semi-final place but, after keeping the Dutch at bay, they finally succumbed to the pressure in the last 20 minutes.

France and Spain meet in the other semi-final on Tuesday before the Dutch face England in Dortmund on Wednesday.

“We knew it was going to be tough so I’m really pleased that we made it through,” said Dutch coach Ronald Koeman.

“It’s a win not only because we were probably the better side but also because we showed fight and we did not give up.”

The only one of the weekend’s quarter-finals to be completed without extra time or penalties was no less drama-filled.

Turkey’s goal came after a strange decision from Dutch fullback Denzel Dumfries to let a shot, which had clearly deflected off Nathan Ake, go out for a corner when he could easily have kept the ball in play.

The resultant set piece was initially cleared but fell for teenager Arda Guler to deliver a perfect cross to the back post and Akaydin was first in a queue of three Turkish players to rise and head home.

The goal came after sustained pressure from Turkey, who had seen off early Dutch dominance, to set up several opportunities, including a succession of corners.

Initial enterprise from the Dutch was met with tenacious defence as Turkey giving their opponents little room to play in.

It did not help the Dutch cause that attackers Memphis Depay and Gakpo looked flat, prompting coach Ronald Koeman into throwing on pinch hitter Wout Weghorst at the start of the second half.

Although the imposing centre forward looked to sew panic among the Turkish defenders, however, it was at the other end that the next opportunities arose.

Guler’s 56th-minute free kick was bent expertly around the Dutch wall but struck the outside of the post.

Ten minutes later, Dutch keeper Bart Verbruggen got a hand to deny Baris Alper Yilmaz’s stinging shot and Kaan Ayhan missed out on tucking away the rebound as Weghorst cleared.

The Dutch kept plugging away and, as Turkey’s defence became more scrambled, they finally made the breakthrough with Depay’s cross finding an unmarked De Vrij to head home in the 70th minute.

The siege continued and it was matter of time before the Dutch grabbed a second, bundled in six minutes later as Gakpo pressurised Muldur after a cross by Dumfries.

“Initially we were sloppy with too much loss of ball possession,” said De Vrij.

“They pushed us behind and then we went behind to the header from a corner. But we kept believing. You’ve seen in other games that goals can come late. And so it came for us too.”

The tired-looking Turks, drawing last vestiges of energy from rabid support from the majority of the capacity crowd, gamely sought to take the game into extra time but had desperate efforts blocked by the Orange defence and Verbruggen made another key save in stoppage time.

“We are very sad. It’s hard to find words right now. We are all emotional,” Turkey midfielder Salih Ozcan said.

“We want to thank our fans, the amazing support we got. They carried us from match to match.”

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