Netherlands strike late to beat Senegal 2-0


DOHA, QATAR (AP) — Louis van Gaal’s bets at both ends of the field have paid off for the Netherlands.

Up front, Memphis Depay returned from injury as a second-half substitute to help breathe life into the attack as the Netherlands scored two late goals to beat Senegal 2-0 early yesterday in of the World Cup.

At the back, Dutch goalkeeper Andries Noppert made three key saves to keep the African champions at bay after Van Gaal decided to give him his international debut in a key World Cup game and just two months after being called up to the national team for the first time.

“His quality is that he can stop balls and he did that three times today,” said the Netherlands coach, “and he did it perfectly.”

Cody Gakpo and substitute Davy Klaasen scored the final goals to secure the Dutch side’s victorious start in their first World Cup appearance since 2014, when Van Gaal was also manager.

Gakpo rose to nod a Frenkie de Jong cross in the 84th minute with the team’s first effort on target.

Dutch striker Memphis Depay runs with the ball during the Qatar 2022 World Cup. PHOTO: AFP

Klaasen added a second right at the end of eight minutes of stoppage time, scoring after Senegal keeper Edouard Mendy only weakly blocked a Depay shot.

The orange-shirted Dutch fans had been subdued until the final strikes, with Senegal being the more energetic side. Senegalese drums and chants were the dominant sound from the stands for much of the match.

But Senegal’s main problem was predictable: without injured striker Sadio Mane, they couldn’t convert any of their chances.

“I think we gave it our all and I think we deserved at least one point in this game,” Senegal coach Aliou Cisse said. “But, of course, Sadio’s disappearance is a problem for us.”

Depay, who has just recovered from a hamstring injury, was brought on by Van Gaal with around 30 minutes to go after the veteran coach said the day before he was unsure whether the Barcelona forward is ready for action.

He decided to see if he was and Depay responded by playing roles in both goals.

First, he joined De Jong near the edge of the box before the midfielder passed to Gakpo for the opening goal.

Depay’s run and shot in injury time led to Klaasen’s second goal – one of four substitutes in the game.

It sealed a Dutch victory and a 16th unbeaten game for the Netherlands since Van Gaal, 71, the oldest World Cup manager, returned from retirement last year to lead his country for the third time.

Substitutions provided “the breakthrough”, Van Gaal said. “Memphis was a big part of that.”

The lengthy injury time – which stretched to nearly nine minutes – was partly due to an apparently serious injury to Senegalese central midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate, who went off on a stretcher while clutching his right leg.

Cisse watched solemnly as one of his most important midfielders was taken off in the first game since the team lost Mane the entire World Cup to a right leg injury.

Senegal won the Africa Cup earlier this year and have been heralded as perhaps the best African team to ever feature at a World Cup.

Without Mane and now with an opening game loss, it’s a fight to get out of the group stage.

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