Rampant Russia rip apart Dutch to make Euro semi-final

A brilliant 3-1 defeat of the Netherlands has taken Russia into the Euro 2008 semi-finals in the biggest game of their modern history.

The result, described by coach Guus Hiddink as “a miracle”, has sparked massive celebrations throughout the country as fans pinch themselves at their side’s success.

It was the biggest shock of the tournament so far, Russia eclipsing a team who were most people’s favourites for the championship.

Russia took the lead on 56 minutes when Roman Pavlyuchenko’s measured volley wrong-footed the Dutch goalkeeper.

It was a lead they thoroughly deserved after dominating the match.

But with a Russian victory in sight, the Netherlands equalised, just three minutes before the end of normal time – Ruud van Nistelrooy’s far post header saving the Dutch.

That took the game into extra-time. But after a goalless first half and with the threat of penalties looming, Russia scored again.

Dmitri Torbinsky finished after being set up by Andrey Arshavin’s run and cross.

But Arshavin, who has set this tournament alight, wasn’t finished there.

Four minutes later he turned in the box and drilled a low shot through the legs of keeper Edwin Van der Saar to seal a remarkable victory.

The victory, in Switzerland's Basel, is their third in a row, and was masterminded by their Dutch coach, Hiddink.

“I don't want to use big words but it is almost a miracle,” he said after knocking out his home nation. “I'm so proud of these guys. Physically, technically and tactically we outplayed the Dutch and it is a huge achievement for us. It's amazing to see how fast they react to the technical concept.”

On the performance of Arshavin, he added: “Arshavin did very well but needs assist of other ones. But he did a big job. He has tremendous skills. He knows how to dribble in defence. Defenders can run with him but they cannot really attack him. It is what nature gave him.”

Netherlands coach Marco Van Basten said: “The Russians played a lot better than we did and deserved their victory. I can live with the indisputable fact that they were better than us. We delivered some remarkable performances in the first round, but today we could not repeat those. We had a lot of problems with the attackers Pavlyuchenko and Arshavin throughout the game.”

It is the first time Russia has made the last four of a major championships in their modern history. The Soviet Union made it all the way to the final in 1988, but that time the Dutch came out on top.

Russia’s next game will be in Vienna on Thursday against Spaniards, who beat Italy in Sunday’s quarter-final. It will be a tough game for Russians, as Spain hammered them 4-1 in both side’s opening group match.