The Netherlands overcame Senegal 2-0 in their return to the World Cup stage, due to late goals from Cody Gakpo and Davy Klaassen. With Senegal without injured wonder Sadio Mane and the Netherlands missing their main attacking danger Memphis Depay before kickoff, the Group A battle in Doha seemed certain to end in a stalemate.
Netherlands Strike Late To Beat Senegal 2-0
With just six minutes remaining, PSV Eindhoven forward Gakpo stepped up in front of Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to head in a floating Frenkie de Jong cross from the left. Substitute Klaassen then sealed the game in injury time, scoring after Mendy had saved from Depay, who had also come off the bench. The victory ties the Netherlands for first place in Group A with Ecuador, who defeated hosts Qatar 2-0 in the tournament’s first encounter on Sunday.
The Netherlands plays Ecuador on Friday, while Senegal now faces a must-win game against Qatar. Senegal saw Bayern Munich sensation Mane, who finished second in this year’s Ballon d’Or, withdraw from the team on the day of the competition due to a leg injury. His absence was palpable as the match at Al Thumama Stadium — played against the soundtrack of nonstop drumming and dancing from the Senegal crowd, but also in front of a significant number of empty seats – fell short of expectations.
Everton midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye came closest to scoring for Senegal in the 73rd minute with a half-volley from the outside of the box that was saved by Netherlands goalkeeper Andries Noppert. Noppert, the huge Heerenveen goalkeeper making his international debut, also impressed in the second half with stops from Boulaye Dia and Pape Gueye as the Netherlands played their first World Cup game in eight years.
The three-time runner-up were semi-finalists in Brazil in 2014 under Van Gaal before failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Virgil van Dijk captained the Dutch squad, making his debut in a major international competition on the occasion of his 50th cap. They were fairly comfortable at the defense with Matthijs de Ligt and Nathan Ake beside him but had generated nothing moving forward when Barcelona striker Depay came on for the last half-hour.
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With Depay unable to play after being sidelined for two months, former Tottenham Hotspur striker Vincent Janssen was tasked with leading the Netherlands attack, but he failed to make an impact. Nonetheless, Gakpo broke the deadlock, and as Senegal pushed for an equalizer, Depay assisted Ajax midfielder Klaassen’s goal in the ninth added minute.