The Netherlands secured a 2-0 victory in a difficult FIFA World Cup opening game against Senegal on Monday, 21 November. An 84th minute Cody Gakpo header coupled with a stoppage-time Davy Klaassen striker made sure the Netherlands started their campaign in expected fashion at Al Thumama Stadium.
The first half was fairly even with chances created by both sides. Both were excellent in the buildup but failed to have the required finishing touches. The best chance of the half came in the 20th minute when the Netherlands broke from a Senegal corner and Steven Berghuis found Frenkie de Jong in space. The latter had all the time in the world to score but took far too many touches and was ultimately dispossessed. The remainder of the half saw both teams sparring but not landing a killer blow.
The second half started with the Dutch fashioning a chance via Virgil van Dijk, who headed one over the bar from a corner. But later, the Lions of Teranga put on a show as they dominated proceedings and created chance after chance. Debutant goalkeeper Andries Noppert was definitely the busier of the two goalkeepers as he produced the first real save of the game from Boulaye Dia's first-time shot.
Senegal kept on attacking via Krepin Diatta, Ismaila Sarr and substitute Bamba Dieng but lacked the end product, which would haunt them later in the match. Until the 83rd minute, the Dutch didn't have a single shot on target and Gakpo ensured that their first one in the 84th was a telling one. He rose highest to meet a De Jong cross and beat Edouard Mendy to the ball to make it 1-0 for the Netherlands. The goal deflated Senegal as the Dutch looked in complete control post the goal.
In the 10th minute of stoppage time, Klaassen picked up on a Memphis Depay shot parried by Mendy into his path and slotted the ball into the empty net. The Netherlands will be relieved to open their FIFA World Cup campaign with a win and will look to build on this victory in their remaining matches.
That said, let's take a look at how players fared from the Netherlands' 1-0 victory over Senegal.
Senegal player ratings
Edouard Mendy - 5/10: Mendy had no choice but to go for the ball but Gakpo beat him to it and scored from a deft header. The shot-stopper would have been unhappy with the second goal after failing to parry Depay's initial efforts to safety.
Youssouf Sabaly - 6.5/10: Sabaly rarely gave a breather to Steven Bergwijn and Daley Blind by shutting any service down from the left-hand side. The right-back also bombed forward to create three chances and give one accurate cross.
Kalidou Koulibaly - 7/10: Kalidou Koulibaly was the usual enforcer at the back and nearly steered his side to a draw. He made eight clearances and two tackles, winning five duels and giving seven accurate long balls.
Pape Abou Cisse - 5/10: The centre-back failed to track Gakpo's run and was caught ball watching for the opening goal. He was also dragged out of position for the second goal.
Abdou Diallo - 6/10: Slotting it at left-back, Diallo covered the threat possessed by the dangerous Denzel Dumfries and made one clearance, two tackles and created one chance. He was forced to withdraw after picking up an injury in the second half.
Cheikhou Kouyate - 6.5/10: Cheikhou Kouyate did not have it easy against De Jong, and left the field in the 73rd minute with an unfortunate injury. Prior to his injury, the Nottingham Forest midfielder won three duels, making four clearances and two interceptions.
Nampalys Mendy - 7/10: Nampalys Mendy was one of the best players for Senegal on the night, whose efforts were undone by the Netherlands' two late goals. He created one chance, gave four accurate long balls, won five duels and made three tackles and clearances each in an all-round display.
Idrissa Gueye - 6.5/10: Idrissa Gueye's defensive burden lessened as he was given the freedom to roam around and contribute in the offensive areas of the pitch. The Everton midfielder was presented with a glorious chance in the second half, but struck the ball straight at Andries Noppert's hand.
Krepin Diatta - 6/10: Krepin Diatta looked lively through the right wing, especially during counter attacks. The right-winger's decisive final ball let him down though and attempted two shots which were off target.
Ismaila Sarr - 7.5/10: Ismaila Sarr's shot was diverted for a corner by Van Dijk in the first half and pulled the ball back to setup Gueye in the second half. He won a whopping 14 duels, created four chances, drew four fouls and made three tackles, seeming to be in a league of his own.
Boulaye Dia - 6/10: Boulaye Dia found it hard to deal with the Netherlands' centre-back duo of Van Dijk and Nathan Ake. However, he conjured a chance out of nowhere to test Noppert with a firm shot.
Ismail Jakobs - 6/10: Jakobs started from where Diallo left off at the left-back position to produce a solid display after coming on from the bench. He won six duels, gave one accurate cross and made three clearances.
Bamba Dieng - 5.5/10: Dieng, with so much promise, failed to deliver yet again. He made two attempts, which were off target.
Pape Gueye - 5/10: Papa Gueye's came on for the injured Kouyate with a shot on target late in the game.
Nicolas Jackson - 5/10: Jackson's substitution did not have an effect on the game.
Netherlands player ratings
Andries Noppert - 7.5/10: Andries Noppert was suddenly brought into action when Dia and Gueye unleashed thunderous shots from the edge of the penalty box. However, the Netherlands 'keeper kept both of them out in an impressive debut display.
Matthijs de Ligt - 6/10: Matthijs de Ligt was clearly not at his best and had to be saved by Van Dijk at times. He was dominated by opposition in the ground and aerial duels, winning just six out of a total of 13.
Virgil van Dijk - 7.5/10: The Netherlands captain's brave effort to head the ball away for a corner proved to be decisive as a shot from Ismaila Sarr was suspected of nestling into the far corner. He won four aerial duels, made three clearances and two interceptions and had a chance on goal early in the second half.
Nathan Ake - 7/10: Nathan Ake was risk averse and played safe passes by putting safety at the top of his priority. His decision to move out of his position could have proved costly to the Netherlands when Dia's shot was well-saved by Noppert.
Denzel Dumfries - 5.5/10: Better things were expected from Denzel Dumfries, whose attacking proficiency did not come into play against Senegal. The right wing-back failed to create any chances, giving no accurate long balls or crosses and lost possession a whopping 23 times.
Frenkie de Jong - 8/10: Frenkie de Jong was the creator of Netherlands' first goal, giving a sumptuous delivery for Gakpo to finish. Apart from the assist, he won eight duels, made two tackles and one clearance and created two chances.
Steven Berghuis - 6/10: Steven Berghuis will feel unlucky to miss out on an assist after De Jong failed to shoot in the first half. His adventurous passes were not capitalized on by the Dutch forwards in the first half.
Daley Blind - 6/10: Daley Blind's defensive display was subpar as he allowed his flank to be an avenue for Senegalese attacks. However, the Netherlands veteran gave a decent offensive display with two accurate long balls and crosses each and one attempt on goal.
Cody Gakpo - 8/10: Cody Gakpo barely tested the resolute Senegalese defense until he leapt to break the deadlock in the 84th minute for the Netherlands. The in-form winger had a subpar game with just one attempt on goal, winning two duels and creating three chances.
Steven Bergwijn - 5.5/10: Bergwijn only had 25 touches of the ball and was not involved in the attack as expected. He made no attempts on goal and didn't create any chances. However, he linked up well with Depay once the Barcelona forward came off the bench.
Vincent Janssen - 6/10: Despite working his socks off, Janssen failed to give Senegalese defenders a tough time. He created just one chance, had two of his shots blocked and won six duels.
Memphis Depay - 7/10: The Netherlands superstar's introduction caused trouble to the Senegalese backline. The experienced striker was involved in both goals as he dragged a couple of players from the penalty box for the opening goal and took a shot that was parried away onto the path of Klaassen for the second goal.
Teun Koopmeiners - 6.5/10: Koopmeiners had an ineffective 11-minute cameo as he did not produce anything substantial for the Netherlands.
Davy Klaassen - 7.5/10: Klaassen was constantly making late runs into the penalty box since coming on. It finally paid dividends when he latched on to a weak save from Mendy to double the score late in stoppage time.
Marten de Roon - N/A: He came on during the closing stages of the game and didn't do much to warrant a rating.