Netherlands were far from their best in Riga, but earned a crucial 2-0 win over Latvia which puts them back into contention for the two automatic places in European Championship qualifying group A.

narsingh wijnaAfter the shock 4-3 friendly defeat to the USA last week fear surrounded Netherlands going into the game against Latvia that had to be won if Guus Hiddink’s side were to claw back their deficit to leaders Iceland and Czech Republic in group A.

However for an hour Netherlands were once again lifeless under the under fire coach as the Oranje failed to find a way past a Latvia defence which was breached six times in the reverse fixture in Amsterdam last year. Netherlands controlled the possession throughout the first half, but failed to really trouble Latvian goalkeeper Andris Vanins, who kept out shots from Jetro Willems and Memphis Depay, while Wesley Sneijder’s curling shot struck the post.

Just after the hour mark Hiddink raised eyebrows by bringing off captain Robin van Persie and replacing the forward with midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, but the move proved to be a masterstroke as the PSV star turned in the box on 67 minutes before poking the ball into the bottom corner to give Netherlands the lead.

Four minutes later the win was sealed when Luciano Narsingh was played through on goal and the PSV winger made no mistake with a calm finish past Vanins. With the two goal lead Netherlands began to calm down and Depay brought a good save out of Vanins after breezing through three challenges, before Sneijder hit the bar with a lovely chip.

The win puts Netherlands on 10 points after six games, three behind Czech Republic, and five behind leaders Iceland with the group resuming in September. Crucial home ties against the top two and away matches against Turkey and Kazakhstan lie in wait for Netherlands, but the Oranje are back into contention, and Hiddink’s job seems safe for now.




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