Amsterdam: Denzel Dumfries scored a dramatic late winner as the Netherlands marked their long-awaited comeback in a major tournament with a 3-2 win over Ukraine in a stunning Euro 2020 match in Amsterdam on Sunday.
Dumfries, PSV Eindhoven goalkeeper, headed from substitute Nathan Ake’s cross to complete a maddening second half after the home side took the lead by two goals and then threw him out.
Captain Georginio Wijnaldum and Wout Weghorst both scored before the hour in front of a loud crowd at the Johan Cruyff Arena, but Ukraine silenced the home fans while Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk scored to briefly restore parity.
Frank de Boer’s team got there in the end and the win will give the Netherlands a big relief after what was their first game in a major competition in seven years.
They now hope to continue on Thursday against Austria, who beat North Macedonia previously in Bucharest in the same Group C.
It was a brilliant match and a crowd of around 16,000 created a fitting atmosphere at Ajax’s home, where fans displayed banners with messages of support for Christian Eriksen following the Danish star’s cardiac arrest on Saturday.
Eriksen made a name for himself at Ajax before moving to Tottenham Hotspur in 2013.
After failing to qualify for Euro 2016 or the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the Netherlands were playing their first game in a major competition since beating hosts Brazil 3-0 to take third place in the Cup. of the World 2014.
They hadn’t won a one-Euro match in almost exactly 13 years, since Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Robin van Persie scored in a 2-0 win over Romania at Euro 2008.
The emergence of characters like Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt gave Oranje supporters new hope for the future.
Those fans were in high spirits before the game, dressed in orange as they filled the bars around the ground in the scorching sun, thoughts of the pandemic appearing distant.
Netherlands with a new look
Yet the Dutch optimism was mitigated by the selection problems faced by coach De Boer.
Juventus defender De Ligt watched this match from the stands as he recovered from a groin injury. .
Manchester United’s Donny van de Beek has withdrawn from the squad due to injury and starting goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen has been ruled out entirely after testing positive for COVID-19.
De Boer has moved up to a 3-5-2 formation and has real stars in Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay in attack.
The system helped Wijnaldum – who will join Paris Saint-Germain from Liverpool after the Euro – turn into a real scoring threat from midfield, while Dumfries was a constant threat down the right flank.
He should have scored at halftime when he managed to put a free header to the side, after Ukrainian goalkeeper Georgiy Bushchan made a nice save to block Wijnaldum’s deflected volley.
The hosts got their reward shortly after the second half when Bushchan turned a dangerous low ball into Dumfries’ area on Wijnaldum who shot home.
Weghorst then unleashed a loose ball that came to him after further damage from Dumfries, and the Netherlands seemed to be on the easy way.
Maarten Stekelenburg, 38, the oldest player to ever represent the Netherlands in a major tournament, didn’t have much to do, but was beaten in the 75th minute by a brilliant round shot from West winger Yarmolenko Ham United.
Yaremchuk then headed from a free-kick from Ruslan Malinovskyi and Ukraine – whose tournament preparation was overshadowed by a discussion of patriotic jersey slogans that upset Russia – looked set to start in a draw, but then appeared. Dumfries.