Robin van Persie's stoppage time penalty spared the Netherlands from suffering an embarrassing defeat as they drew 2-2 in Estonia to keep up their unbeaten run in the World Cup qualifiers in Tallinn on Friday.
The spot kick delivered a devastating blow to lowly Estonia, who were just minutes away from a famous triumph after Konstantin Vassiljev scored twice in a gutsy performance. They had come back from conceding a goal inside the opening 60 seconds when Arjen Robben's strike threatened a one-sided result for the Group D leaders.
The Dutch dropped points for the first time in the preliminaries after six successive wins but still have a handy six-point lead over second-placed Romania, who are on 13, in the standings. Estonia remain second bottom with seven points. The performance and the result was embarrassing for a side that finished runners-up to Spain in the last World Cup.
"We know we are better so it makes it a frustrating evening. We have to be a little down on ourselves if we lead in the first minute and then walk off the pitch with the score at 2-2," Robben told Dutch NOS radio after the game. Robben swept the visitors into an early lead with a characteristic left footed drive from the edge of the area after being set up by Van Persie.
They should have moved further ahead before being suddenly caught cold with a shot from outside the area from Vassiljev that squeezed past goalkeeper Michel Vorm. The Russian-based striker had the small home crowd in euphoric celebration with a quality second goal before the hour mark but they were deflated by a late foul from Raio Piiroja, who was sent off. That allowed Van Persie to equalise minutes into stoppage time.
Two chances followed for the Dutch to snatch victory in seven minutes of added time but they were spurned by Wesley Sneijder and Robben, whose late booking means he misses Tuesday's match in Andorra.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson, editing by Pritha Sarkar)