Dutch draw a blank again
Holland failed to score for the second time in four days after being held to a 0-0 draw by Paraguay.
Last Updated: 18/11/09 10:24pm
Holland failed to score for the second time in four days after being held to a 0-0 draw by Paraguay in Heerenveen.
Fresh from a 0-0 stalemate with World Cup holders Italy at the weekend, the Dutch were unable to find a way past Paraguay keeper Justo Villar.
Missing the likes of Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben through injury, Holland struggled for a creative spark against their fellow World Cup qualifiers.
The game started at a reasonable pace, with both teams committed enough to concede fouls inside the first minute - Nigel De Jong and Dario Veron the guilty parties.
Both sides struggled for fluency early on and the referee continued to be the busiest man on the pitch, penalising Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Cristian Riveros Nunez and Dirk Kuyt for further indiscretions inside the opening 10 minutes.
Rafael Van der Vaart, bearing a good deal of Holland's attacking hopes, tried his best to instil some energy into the game but he was struggling to exert any influence.
Nelson Valdez, meanwhile, was looking to inspire the visitors and tried his luck with an ambitious 20-yard strike that squirmed wide of the right-hand post.
Van der Vaart returned fire, this time forcing a smart save from Villar, who tipped his 27th-minute effort out of play for a corner.
With half an hour gone De Jong became the first man to receive a yellow card, Veron the victim this time.
Oscar Cardozo gave the visiting side a brief hint of a goal when he lined up an inviting 34th-minute free-kick but he sent his effort just over the crossbar, again leaving Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg with nothing to do.
Van Der Vaart and Eljero Elia continued to press at the other end, each striking from outside the area without luck.
Instead, both teams continued to kill the tempo as the first period ended in another series of fouls.
Holland boss Bert van Marwijk attempted to change the course of the match with a trio of substitutions at the start of the second half - Ryan Babel, Orlando Engelaar and Edson Braafheid sent on in place of Elia, De Jong and Van Bronckhorst.
Paraguay responded with a change of their own just two minutes in, Manchester City striker Roque Santa Cruz taking the place of Paulo Da Silva .
Ibrahim Afellay had the first half-chance after the restart but his shot from just outside the box was too high to worry Villar.
Cardozo did better with a free-kick from 35 yards, but Stekelenburg was equal to it.
Van der Vaart, still the most likely source of a goal, had a chance to break the deadlock with 20 minutes to go but his header, from Afellay's fine cross, was well saved by a diving Villar.
By now neither side looked lively enough to make the breakthrough and a trickle of substitutes did not help the fluency or the spectacle, though Otman Bakkal will not mind after being handed his senior debut as an 84th-minute replacement for Van der Vaart.
Another latecomer to proceedings, AC Milan striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar almost won it with an injury-time attempt on goal but Villar, deservedly keeping a clean sheet, got down well.