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The Netherlands got off to a fine start of their Euro 2020 campaign by beating Ukraine 3-2 on Sunday night. It was an intense and spectacular match with Ukraine coming back from 2-0 down late in the second half. However, with only five minutes left, right fullback Denzel Dumfries became the hero of the day by heading in the winner.
There was plenty of excitement in the first half, which started with a flurry of chances on both sides in the first five minutes. This promised to be a very open and entertaining match, much to the delight of the 16,000-strong crowd in the Johan Cruijff Arena in Amsterdam. These included 2000 fans from Ukraine and the royal couple, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and Queen Máxima, donning an orange scarf for the occasion.
They saw the hosts quickly gaining the upper hand, creating one chance after the other but failing to score. The best opportunities were for skipper Georginio Wijnaldum, whose effort from inside the crowded box was saved by Ukraine goalkeeper Georgiy Bushchan, and for Denzel Dumfries, who found himself completely unmarked in front of Buschchan, but saw his header go far wide.
No goals before the break, but plenty of them in the second half, as well even more excitement and drama. The opener came on 52 minutes from skipper Georginio Wijnaldum, who saw the ball coming his way after the Ukrainian goalkeeper had made another great save and confidently fired it high into the net from the edge of the box. Six minutes later, Wout Weghorst doubled the Dutch lead by hammering home another rebound from the goalkeeper.
Frank de Boer’s men seemed to be cruising to a comfortable victory, but Andriy Yarmolenko thought otherwise. With just 15 minutes left, he curled a stupendous effort into the top corner from 20 metres. The equaliser came only four minutes later following a powerful header from Roman Yaremchuk. A draw after a two-goal lead feels like defeat, and one could see the disappointment in the faces of the Dutch players. But then, Denzel Dumfries stood up and did what he failed to do in the first half: heading in a fine cross to make it 3-2.
That winning goal came as a massive relief for the Oranje, Wijnaldum told Dutch reporters after the match. “We controlled most of the game, scored two goals, and then within minutes, we gave two chances away, restoring their confidence. Which means they could have scored a third. This shouldn’t have happened and we must do better next time around. Still, I’m proud, because we didn’t panic and fought back. Of course, we were disappointed after the equaliser, but we kept our confidence and clinched a very important victory in our opening match.”
There’s likely to be more excitement on Thursday, when the Netherlands take on Group C leaders Austria, who beat North Macedonia by 3-1 earlier on Sunday.