Gritty Ukraine bounced back from two goals down but Denzel Dumfries’s late winner helped the Netherlands snatch a 3-2 win on home soil in Euro 2020 on Sunday.
The third match-day also saw Austria overpower North Macedonia 3-1 and England down Croatia 1-0.
The Dutch, also known as ‘Elftal’ assumed control from the starting whistle, and they should have got the opener early in the game but Memphis Depay, Dumfries and Georginio Wijnaldum lacked in accuracy, Xinhua reports.
The 16,000 spectators at the Amsterdam Johan Cruijff Arena saw a powerful performance from the Dutch, yet they remained wasteful.
After the interval, the hosts were eventually able to turn their chances into rewards.
Ukraine goalkeeper Heorhiy Bushchan blocked a cross into the path of Wijnaldum, who rifled the opener from 13 metres into the top left corner seven minutes into second half.
Frank de Boer’s men gained momentum and made it 2-0 in the 59th minute after Weghorst made use of a loose ball inside the box to poke home from six metres.
The ‘Elftal’ thought the game was sealed but Ukraine halved the deficit against the flow of game with 75 minutes gone when Andrey Yarmolenko traded passes with Roman Yaremchuk before hammering home from 20 metres into the roof of the net.
Four minutes later, things went from bad to worse for the Netherlands as Yaremchuk shocked the hosts after heading home a free-kick cross from Ruslan Malinovskyi. The score was 2-all.
But the Dutch remained unfazed and clinched a late victory as Nathan Ake’s curl into the area allowed Dumfries to wrap up all three points in their opening game of Group C in front of the home crowd.
“It was a very quick and interesting game with loads of opportunities for both teams. I would like to thank my team for the comeback, especially after going 2-0 down,” said Ukraine head coach Andriy Shevchenko.
It was a slow burner in Bucharest between Austria and North Macedonia as Stefan Lainer opened the scoring with the first chance in 18th minute. The Austrian defender capitalised on Marcel Sabitzer’s pinpoint cross to the far post to beat Stole Dimitrievski from close range.
Austria’s lead didn’t last long as North Macedonia hit back 10 minutes later when Goran Pandev took advantage of a ricocheted ball inside the box to tap home the equaliser out of the blue.
After the interval, Igor Angelovski’s men took control and pressed Austria on the back-foot in the early stages as Austrian goalkeeper Daniel Backmann denied Boban Nikolov a chance an hour into the game.
Austria head coach Franco Foda reacted to his team’s performance and fielded Michael Gregoritsch and Marko Arnautovic.
Foda’s substitutions paid off as Gregoritsch made the most of David Alaba’s cross into the box, putting Austria 2-1 ahead in the 78th minute.
North Macedonia’s resistance was broken as Arnautovic made it three after slotting home Lainer’s back-heel pass in the dying minutes of the game.
“Overall, I was very happy with the performance. We started well, worked hard, were aggressive, and deserved to take the lead,” said Austria head coach Franco Foda.
Elsewhere, England broke their opening Euro match jinx after beating Croatia 1-0 courtesy Raheem Sterling’s goal in London’s Wembley Stadium.
The host got off to a bright start as Phil Foden rattled the woodwork and Kalvin Phillips unleashed a dangerous volley in the opening stages. England’s pace fell off as the match progressed whereas Croatia gained a foothold into the contest without doing damage.
England eventually snatched the winner at the hour mark when Sterling benefitted from Phillip’s defense-splitting through-ball to beat Croatia’s goalkeeper Dominik Livkovic.