Wembley, England, Mar 1 : Plagued by injuries since the 2010 World Cup, Arjen Robben provided a timely reminder of his enduring quality by scoring a pair of classy goals in the Netherlands' 3-2 friendly win over England on Wednesday, 100 days before Euro 2012.
By opening and closing the scoring in at Wembley Stadium, the brilliant but fragile winger helped end a three-match winless run for the Dutch. It was just his second international appearance since the 2010 World Cup final.
After a cagey first half, Robben broke the deadlock in the 57th minute. The Bayern Munich player picked up possession inside his own half, sprinted to the other end of the pitch through a hesitant English defense and blasted the ball past goalkeeper Joe Hart.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar doubled the Dutch lead with a powerful header within two minutes, but England staged a late comeback under interim coach Stuart Pearce, with Gary Cahill and Ashley Young scoring twice in the last five minutes.
However in stoppage time, England's defense allowed Mark van Bommel to get hold of the ball and pick out Robben, leaving the former Chelsea and Real Madrid star to send a deflected shot into the net.
So while the Netherlands played in a new all-black away strip with the words Nieuwe Meesters — New Masters — embroidered into the collars, it was an old and familiar face who did the damage.
"Players like Arjen Robben ... can change the game," England captain Scott Parker said. "It was a touch of brilliance tonight from Robben."
After setbacks in October and November for the Dutch, this victory puts Bert van Marwijk's side back on the right track ahead of the European Championship, which starts in June.
"Before this game we had a bad series, because we lost against Germany 3-0 ... (and) against Sweden and Switzerland we had difficulties," Robben said. "We have a great squad, great potential still, although everybody's getting a year older.
"But we're still at a good age and we go to the Euros to win, no doubt about that. Not with arrogance, but I think if you have a great squad you go to a tournament to win and not to reach the quarterfinals."
That is the furthest England has reached in the last decade at any tournament, going out even earlier at the World Cup two years ago.
And the hosts, who were unbeaten through 2011, had a disappointing start to the uncertain new era following Fabio Capello's resignation earlier this month.
"They needed a touch more belief that they could hurt a team of this ability," Pearce said.
Pearce harbors hopes of leading England at Euro 2012 if the Football Association cannot find a full-time successor for Capello before then.
The under-21 England coach dropped several experienced players, giving younger players a chance to shine against the Dutch.
"If we had come away from here 2-2 there might have been a better feel," Pearce said. "But it won't affect my mentality in any way. I feel I would be confident in taking the squad to the Euros."
The Netherlands' squad showed more continuity, with the starting eleven including nine who started in the World Cup final.
The visitors had the Premier League's top scorer — Arsenal's Robin van Persie — up front and left Huntelaar, the leading Bundesliga scorer, on the bench initially. Meanwhile in England's attack, Manchester United's Danny Welbeck was playing only his fourth international and searching for his first goal which never came.
Neither side really came close to scoring, though, until Robben's opener.
"We lost against Germany (in November) and didn't want to lose again tonight on the counterattack," Van Marwijk said. "So we played more stable."
But almost immediately after Robben's opener, Huntelaar headed in his 31st goal in 50 internationals, after Dirk Kuyt found the space to cross from the right flank. The scorer was forced off after clashing heads in the process of scoring, with England defender Chris Smalling being sent to hospital for scans.
"At 2-0, we could have fallen apart really," Parker said. "We dug in and we got ourselves back."
Cahill raced onto a pass from Leighton Baines in the 85th and the English looked to have salvaged a draw when Young chipped the ball over goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg after neat linkup play by Theo Walcott and Phil Jones.
And then, as Pearce put it: "We probably showed a little bit of naivety."
Robben had the final say when he curled the ball into the English net, ending their nine-game unbeaten run since a loss to France in November 2010.
England: Joe Hart, Micah Richards, Leighton Baines, Chris Smalling (Phil Jones, 64), Gary Cahill, Gareth Barry (James Milner, 46), Scott Parker, Adam Johnson (Stewart Downing, 61), Ashley Young, Steven Gerrard (Daniel Sturridge, 33), Danny Welbeck (Fraizer Campbell, 80).
Netherlands: Maarten Stekelenburg, Khalid Boulahrouz (Ron Vlaar, 82), Johnny Heitinga, Joris Mathijsen, Erik Pieters (Stijn Schaars, 46), Mark van Bommel, Dirk Kuyt, Nigel De Jong, Robin Van Persie (Klaas Jan Huntelaar, 46; Luuk De Jong, 62), Wesley Sneijder (Urby Emanuelson, 76), Arjen Robben