Frank de Boer claimed a much-needed victory as his Netherlands team defeated Latvia 2-0 in World Cup qualifying.
Requiring a strong response following a 4-2 defeat to Turkey in their Group G opener, Netherlands turned in a much-improved display on Saturday.
With Steven Berghuis’ first international strike, a brilliant shot from 20 yards out, having put them ahead, the Netherlands ensured victory thanks to Luuk de Jong’s 69th-minute header.
The win relieves some of the mounting pressure on De Boer – taking charge of a Netherlands match in front of fans for the first time – lifting his side up to third.
Buoyed by a vociferous socially distanced crowd at Johan Cruijff ArenA, the Netherlands would have taken a sixth-minute lead through Davy Klaassen if not for Igors Tarasovs’ exceptional goalline clearance.
With Janis Ikaunieks’ blocked effort all Latvia managed in the opening exchanges, Klaassen had another opportunity in the 27th minute, only for his header to clatter back off the crossbar.
The pressure finally told five minutes later – Klaassen finding Berghuis, who created space on the edge of the area and curled a stunning effort into the top-left corner.
Somehow, the Netherlands failed to double their lead prior to the break, Memphis Depay curling inches wide before De Jong headed against the bar from point-blank range.
More profligacy followed after the restart – Klaassen then De Jong missing from a goalmouth scramble.
Vladimirs Kamess looked set to punish the duo moments later, only for his path to goal to be blocked by Owen Wijndal’s perfectly timed challenge.
Any danger of a Latvia comeback was ended with a little over 20 minutes remaining, however, as De Jong atoned for his earlier misses with a powerful header from Depay’s corner to get the Netherlands up and running.
What does it mean? Wasteful finishing will end up costing the Oranje
Creating chances has not been a problem over the last two games for the Netherlands, but taking them certainly has, and it is an area that De Boer must work to improve.
The Netherlands had 20 shots against Turkey and a remarkable 37 (11 on target) this time around but, as shown on Wednesday, if they do not become more clinical, better teams than Latvia,– who hit the post through Andrejs Ciganiks late on and are ranked 136th in the world – will punish them.
Brilliant Berghuis gets off the mark
Berghuis has starred for Feyenoord in recent seasons, though had failed to carry that form onto the international stage.
The forward came up with the goods in Amsterdam, however, scoring his first Netherlands goal on what was his 23rd appearance, and from his 25th attempt in total, to cap an impressive performance.
More history for Frappart
Stephanie Frappart was the official on Saturday, and in the process became the first woman to referee a men’s World Cup qualifier.
The Frenchwoman was already the first female to oversee a major men’s European match (the 2019 UEFA Super Cup), as well as being the first to take charge of a Ligue 1 fixture and a Champions League game.
Minnows Gibraltar are next up for the Netherlands on Tuesday, while Latvia face Turkey.
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