Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Belarus 1 Netherlands 3: Fast-finishing Oranje stay alive in World Cup qualifying

SoccerNews in World Cup 7 Oct 2017

Netherlands survived a huge scare as Arjen Robben and Mephis Depay scored late goals to edge Belarus 3-1 in a crucial World Cup qualifier, though they remain on the brink of elimination.

Robben netted an 84th-minute penalty and Depay stroked home a stoppage time free-kick to resuscitate Oranje’s slim hopes of finishing second in Group A.

However, Dick Advocaat’s men remain unlikely to catch second-place Sweden following their earlier 8-0 rout of Luxembourg – they require a seven-goal victory when the two nations meet on Tuesday.

Needing a minimum of six points from their final two matches to have a chance of claiming a play-off spot, the visitors took a narrow 1-0 lead into the break courtesy of Davy Propper.

But Netherlands appeared certain to be absent from a second major international tournament in succession when Maksim Volodko stunned them midway through the second half.

Just as all hope appeared lost, Robben was gifted the chance to restore the lead with a spot-kick and Depay made sure of an essential victory.

Sitting last after eight matches, Belarus looked free of expectation in the opening exchanges with Aleksey Rios and Aleksandr Karnitski both trying their luck inside 10 minutes.

In contrast, Netherlands’ need for goals failed to translate into early opportunities as they waited until midway through the half for Daley Blind to slice their first shot harmlessly wide.

That effort helped stir the visitors into action and Vincent Janssen first saw a deflected effort come back off the bar, before Propper broke the deadlock in the 24 minute.

Robben cushioned a Ryan Babel cross into the path of the Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder, who dispatched his third goal in two appearances following last month’s brace against Bulgaria.

Tonny Vilhena forced Sergei Chernik to shovel a dipping shot away from the bottom-left corner, and Babel should have done better when presented with a header from the ensuing corner.

Nancy goalkeeper Chernik then denied Janssen in a one-on-one to help restrict an improving Netherlands to a 1-0 lead at half-time.

Jasper Cillessen was the busier of the two goalkeepers at the start of the second half and, after denying Sergei Balanovich at his near post, the Barcelona man’s next act was to pick the ball out of his net.

Volodko went untracked on an overlapping run and speared a low finish across Cillessen into the bottom-right corner to restore parity.

Tempers began to flare prior to the hour with players from both sides involved in a scuffle, but Belarus were able to regain their composure and looked to have navigated a largely untroubled final half hour.

However, Advocaat’s men regained the lead when Robben converted from the spot after substitute Bas Dost was adjudged to have been brought down in the box by Nikolai Signevich.

Depay put the result beyond doubt when he curled home a last-gasp free-kick, setting up a dramatic meeting with Sweden in Amsterdam.

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