Qatar Nobember 22, 2022: PSV forward Gakpo on target and Klaassen strikes for Netherlands to defeat Senegal in Group A contest
- Cody Gakpo pounces late for Netherlands breakthrough
- Davy Klaassen adds late second for Dutch
- Louis van Gaal's team face Ecuador on Friday, while Senegal tackle Qatar
Senegal 0-2 Netherlands | Group A
Goal: Gakpo (84) Klaassen (90+9)
Cody Gakpo struck with six minutes remaining and Davy Klaassen scored deep into stoppage time to earn the Netherlands a precious victory from their opening FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ meeting with Senegal.
The game at Al Thumama Stadium appeared destined for stalemate when Frenkie de Jong swung a left-wing delivery beyond the Senegal backline. PSV Eindhoven forward Gakpo timed his run perfectly, escaping the offside trap and arriving a fraction ahead of goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to apply a faint headed touch to steer the ball into the net.
Gakpo's strike was the Netherlands' first attempt on target, the best they'd managed until this point a brisk first-half break that ended with De Jong taking too long over his touch in the penalty area.
Senegal aimed 15 attempts at goal, but directed only four on target. Andries Noppert, the goalkeeper making his international debut, saved at the foot of his near post from Boulaye Dia at 0-0. And when the African team tried to muster a response to Gakpo's goal, Noppert was equal to Pape Gueye's low blast.
And the Netherlands wrapped up the three points when Klaassen converted on the rebound after Mendy parried Memphis Depay's low shot on the counter.
It wasn't necessarily decisive in this fixture, but the sight of Depay striding on to the field after 62 minutes would have gladdened Netherlands hearts.
For all their discipline and application, Louis van Gaal's side struggled to create any clear openings prior to Gakpo's crucial intervention. Depay was expected to sit out this contest altogether due to a hamstring issue. It is indicative of how highly coach Van Gaal rates Depay that he drew parallels between the 28-year-old's absence and that of Senegal's talismanic forward Sadio Mane.
The result, here, will allow Depay additional time to ease his way into the competition. And with the Dutch in the box seat in Group A, any potential knockout round opponents won't be keen on the prospect of the Barcelona forward adding zest and creativity to the Netherlands frontline. There was a hint of Depay's capacity for having a decisive say in matches when he capitalised on the space vacated by Senegal to streak forwards and test goalkeeper Mendy, who could only touch the ball into the path of the lurking Klaassen for the knockout blow.
Its all about the Netherlands, who overcame a stodgy initial performance to maintain a number of impressive sequences.
The three-times runners-up are unbeaten in their past 14 group stage matches at the FIFA World Cup (W11 D3), and are currently on a seven-match winning streak in group fixtures. Louis van Gaal is unbeaten in his 16 matches (W12 D4) since his appointment for a third spell in charge in August 2021.
"We had agreed before the game that he would play about half an hour. With Ecuador, he will want to play, but I have to assess his form after this game. I never thought we would lose and, with the entry of Depay, I wanted to have more chances to score. He is a player who can make the difference." Louis van Gaal on Memphis Depay. "Gakpo was decisive, I left him inside because he knows how to score goals and is very agile. Senegal had three chances, but we have a goalkeeper who knows his stuff between the posts. We didn't play very well, too many times, we gave them the ball and the chance to score. We had to be more compact. We can only improve, there was probably some tension between the players." More from Van Gaal, on goalscorer Cody Gakpo and the Netherlands' performance.
Player of the match