A late first international goal for Denzel Dumfries secured a thrilling 3-2 victory for the Netherlands in their Euro 2020 opener after Ukraine had fought back from two goals down.
Ukraine goalkeeper Georgi Bushchan frustrated the Oranje with a string of first-half saves, but his mistake gifted captain Georginio Wijnaldum the chance to open the scoring early in the second half.
Wout Weghorst added a second soon after in the Group C clash at the Johan Cruijff ArenA on Sunday, but a stunning finish from skipper Andriy Yarmolenko 15 minutes from time gave Ukraine hope.
Roman Yaremchuk capitalised on slack defending to seemingly salvage a point in Amsterdam, but Dumfries nodded home the winner only five minutes from time to make amends for missing a glorious first-half chance.
Memphis Depay ended an incisive run by forcing a save from Bushchan and the Ukraine goalkeeper spread himself superbly to deny Dumfries in a promising start for the Oranje.
Wijnaldum blazed over the crossbar as he burst into the penalty area at full tilt before Ukraine lost Oleksandr Zubkov to injury only 13 minutes in, Marlos replacing the midfielder.
Bushchan rescued Ukraine again when he whipped the ball away from an onrushing Weghorst and Yarmolenko was denied a penalty when he felt Patrick van Aanholt had upended him as he surged into the Netherlands box, but no contact was made.
The Dutch continued to probe, but a wrong-footed Bushchan produced a magnificent reflex stop to keep out Wijnaldum’s deflected volley and unmarked wing-back Dumfries somehow headed wide from only six yards out with the best chance of an open first half.
Wijnaldum gave the Netherlands a deserved lead seven minutes after the break, though, finishing clinically with his left foot after Bushchan could only palm a cross into his path.
Weghorst added a second soon after, rifling in with his right foot from inside the penalty area and a VAR check ruling that Dumfries had not bundled over Vitalii Mykolenko, who Ukraine may also have felt was offside as the ball flashed past Bushchan.
Yarmolenko set the Dutch nerves jangling with a sublime long-range left-foot strike beyond Maarten Stekelenburg and Yaremchuk caught Weghorst napping to nod in Ruslan Malinovskiy’s free-kick, levelling with only 11 minutes to go.
Ukraine were unable to hold on for a point, though, as Dumfries popped up to head Nathan Ake’s cross inside the far post, Bushchan again at fault as he got two hands on the ball but failed to keep it out.
What does it mean? Dutch delight but defensive frailties a concern
It was ultimately job done for the Netherlands, but they looked vulnerable at the back and will be counting on Matthijs de Ligt returning to full fitness.
Yarmolenko’s strike was out of the top drawer, but Yaremchuk was given a free header for the equaliser as the Dutch switched off – Weghorst in particular guilty of ball watching.
Ukraine will reflect on a missed opportunity after getting themselves back into what was an entertaining game.
Wijnaldum a driving force
Skipper Wijnaldum led by example, causing all sorts of problems as he made intelligent forward runs from midfield.
He has scored 15 goals in his last 26 games for his country after finding the back of the net eight times in his first 50 caps. Wijnaldum could have easily had more than just the one goal, hitting the target twice with his five shots.
Bushchan brought back down to earth
Ukraine keeper Bushchan frustrated the Netherlands time and again in the first half, but it was a very different story after the interval.
He was at fault for the first goal and should have done better with the winner, mistakes that proved to be costly.
Key Opta Facts:
– This was the first ever match in the history of the European Championships to see five goals scored in the second half of a match that was 0-0 at half-time.
– Stekelenburg (38 years and 264 days) became the oldest ever player to play for the Netherlands at the EUROs/World Cup, overtaking Edwin van der Sar’s record set in 2008 (37 years and 236 days).
– Dumfries; 85th minute winner for the Netherlands was their latest game-winning goal at the EUROs since current boss De Boer scored an 89th minute penalty against Czech Republic at EURO 2000.
– Ukraine had failed to score with any of their last 72 shots at the EUROs before Yarmolenko and Yaremchuk scored with consecutive efforts, four minutes and six seconds apart.
Austria will provide the next test for Frank de Boer’s side at the same venue on Thursday, with Ukraine heading to Bucharest to take on North Macedonia earlier in the day.
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