Depay stars as Netherlands rout Belarus
Euro Qualifying, Group C, De Kuip - Netherlands 4 (M. Depay 1, 55(p.), G. Wijnaldum 21, V. van Dijk 86) Belarus 0
Memphis Depay struck twice as Netherlands' Euro 2020 qualifying campaign began with a convincing 4-0 victory over Belarus at the De Kuip Stadium.
Ronald Koeman's side got off to a flyer when Depay seized upon a weak back pass, side stepped visiting keeper Andrey Gorbunov and coolly fired home from a narrow angle inside 50 seconds.
The former Manchester United forward, now with Lyon, has emerged as a talismanic presence for his country, and he was at it again on 21 minutes when his inventive back heel set up Liverpool's Gini Wijnaldum to net his third goal in his last four outings for his country.
The Dutch played well within themselves for long spells but wrapped up the points just after the interval when Depay coolly converted from the penalty spot.
The home side were forced to see out the last 20 minutes with 10 men after their final substitute of the night, Kenny Tete pulled up with what appeared to be a hamstring problem within seconds of taking to the field. However, it did not stop Oranje adding further gloss to the scoreline as captain Virgil van Dijk nodded in Depay's cross from close range four minutes from time.
Kenny Tete of Holland, Memphis Depay of Holland during the EURO Qualifier match between Holland v Belarus at the Feyenoord Stadium on March 21, 2019 in Rotterdam NetherlandsGetty Images
Netherlands continue to flourish under birthday-boy Koeman. It is just over a year since Koeman took charge of the national team and the transformation continues to be rather impressive. They delivered what has quickly become expected of an Oranje team under his tutelage; a confident, ruthless showing that was the perfect present on the evening of his 56th birthday.
Prior to 'Ronald's Resurgence' the Dutch had failed to reach back-to-back major tournaments and the third-placed finish at the 2014 World Cup seemed a lifetime ago. Indeed, last year's Nations League pool with Germany and France was all set to show just how far they had fallen from grace, but Koeman's Netherlands stunned two of Europe's top sides to regain the belief of the country.
The Nations League finals could yet present a trophy-laden path to reaching the Euros, but this qualifying campaign is the most clear one. Oranje are expected to finish in the top two in this pool and this display only enhanced their tag as favourites. There's a big test against new-look Germany next up, but the fact they go into that as the side to beat shows the impact Koeman has made in such a short period of time.
Yuri Kovalev of Belarus, Daley Blind of Holland during the EURO Qualifier match between Holland v Belarus at the Feyenoord Stadium on March 21, 2019 in Rotterdam NetherlandsGetty Images
MAN OF THE MATCH
Memphis Depay (Netherlands). The 25-year-old enjoyed an impressive evening with two goals and a couple of assists. He has now scored seven and set up four of the 20 goals notched by Koeman's Netherlands, underlining his importance to his country's revival.
Memphis Depay of Holland scores the third goal to make it 3-0 during the EURO Qualifier match between Holland v Belarus at the Feyenoord Stadium on March 21, 2019 in Rotterdam NetherlandsGetty Images
NETHERLANDS: Cillessen 6; Dumfries 7, De Ligt 8, Van Dijk 8, Blind 7; De Roon 6, De Jong 7, Wijnaldum 8; Bergwijn 7, Depay 9, Babel 6. Subs: Propper 6, Promes 6, Tete 6.
1' - GOAL! Netherlands 1-0 Belarus. Depay seizes upon a dreadful back pass from Igor Shitov, side steps Andrey Gorbunov and flicks the ball into the far corner from a narrow angle.
21' - GOAL! Netherlands 2-0 Belarus. The hosts double their advantage. Depay delightfully back heels a cross from the right into the path of Liverpool's Wijnaldum, who gleefully sweeps home.
39' - NETHERLANDS CHANCE! Babel surges down the left, takes on his man and whips in a fizzing cross that Depay can only miscue wide of Andrey Gorbunov's right-hand post.
55' - GOAL! Netherlands 3-0 Belarus. Depay steps up and drills a superb spot-kick into the left-hand corner he is facing, with Gorbunov diving the wrong way.
78' - BELARUS CHANCE! Cillessen produces a fine one-handed stop to tip Stasevich's thumping effort over the bar.
85' - NETHERLANDS CHANCE! Holland break at pace. It's unselfishly played to Depay inside the area, but his rasping effort is well saved. No hat-trick on this occasion.
86' - GOAL! Netherlands 4-0 Belarus. Depay gets in again but sees his thumping shot rebound back to him. This time he opts for a cross and puts it on a pate for Van Dijk to nod home at the far post.
Depay's goal after 50 seconds v Belarus was the earliest Netherlands goal since Phillip Cocu in March 2005, v Romania (38 seconds).
Wijnaldum has scored three goals in his last four games for the Dutch national team, as many as in the previous 21 combined.
The 4-0 victory over Belarus was the biggest win for Koeman since the 56-year old was appointed Dutch national manager.