Depay leads Netherlands to easy win, Belgium overcome Courtois howler to sink Russia

Friday, 2019-03-22 08:00:04
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Netherlands' Memphis Depay shoots at goal - Euro 2020 Qualifier - Group C - Netherlands v Belarus - De Kuip, Rotterdam, Netherlands - March 21, 2019. (Photo: Reuters)
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Memphis Depay scored two goals and set up two more as the Netherlands eased to a 4-0 victory over Belarus in their opening Euro 2020 Group C qualifier on Thursday.

Georginio Wijnaldum and Virgil van Dijk were also on target as the home side were rarely threatened and might have won by a greater margin, providing a welcome present for manager Ronald Koeman on his 56th birthday.

Depay, enduring a lean spell at club level, was at the heart of the Dutch attacking effort, taking his tally of goals to 10 in his last 14 internationals and cementing his place as the key attacker in the Netherlands’ revival under Koeman.

The home side were ahead inside 50 seconds as Igor Shitov’s risky back-pass was latched on to by Depay and his shot trickled into the net off the post.

Netherlands doubled their advantage in the 21st minute when Depay turned provider, flicking the ball into the path of Wijnaldum, who had the simplest of finishes from seven yards.

The hosts added to their tally on 55 minutes when Mikhail Sivakov clattered into Wijnaldum in the box for a clear penalty that was confidently converted by Depay.

The Dutch played the final 20 minutes down to 10 men after replacement right back Kenny Tete, their third substitute, pulled up with a hamstring injury after his first sprint about 20 seconds after coming on.

But even with the player short the home side managed a fourth in the final four minutes as Van Dijk finished after Depay’s set-up.

Netherlands can expect a much tougher assignment on Sunday when they host Germany in their next qualifier, another chance for Koeman’s side to underline their revival after failing to qualify for last year’s World Cup in Russia.

In the other Group C game, Niall McGinn and Steven Davis (penalty) scored second-half goals as Northern Ireland ended a run of four-game winless run with a 2-0 victory over Estonia at Windsor Park.

Belgium sinks Russia

Captain Eden Hazard scored twice for Belgium to spare the blushes of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and secure a 3-1 victory over Russia in their Euro 2020 Group I qualifier at the King Baudouin Stadium on Thursday.

Belgium's Eden Hazard celebrates scoring their third goal - Euro 2020 Qualifier - Group I - Belgium v Russia - King Baudouin Stadium, Brussels, Belgium - March 21, 2019. (Photo: Reuters)

Courtois allowed Russia a soft equaliser after his error gifted a goal to Denis Cheryshev, but Belgium claimed a deserved victory when Youri Tielemans opened the scoring with his first international goal and Hazard added two more, one from the penalty spot.

Striker Michy Batshuayi was asked to lead the line in the absence of the injured Romelu Lukaku, while the Hazard brothers, Eden and Thorgan, played together for the third time in a national team shirt.

Belgium led on 15 minutes when Timothy Castagne’s pass fed Tielemans on the edge of the box and as Russia’s defensive line opened up, the midfielder fired a low shot past goalkeeper Guilherme Marinato.

But the lead lasted barely a minute as a horror error from Courtois gifted Cheryshev the equaliser.

The keeper dallied in possession following a back-pass and when pressed into action, passed the ball straight to Cheryshev on the edge of the box who finished into an empty net.

Batshuayi came close to restoring the lead when the Hazard brothers led a breakaway from a Russian corner and when the ball fell to the striker in the box, his shot beat Marinato but not defender Georgiy Dzhikiya on the goalline.

Belgium, World Cup semi-finalists last year, scored their second just before the break when Eden Hazard was fouled in the box by Yuri Zhirkov and stepped up to convert the spot-kick and give his side a 2-1 lead at halftime.

Batshuayi should have added a third for the home side when he was left unmarked and turned a low cross on to the post from eight yards out.

Skipper Hazard netted the third when he picked up the loose ball in the box after Batshuayi’s shot was blocked and the visitors finished the game with 10 following a late red card for Aleksandr Golovin.

Earlier, Cyprus stormed to the top of the Group I standings with a 5-0 victory over San Marino in Nicosia.

Reuters