Netherlands eased some of the pressure on coach Guus Hiddink by beating Latvia 2-0 away from home to boost their Euro 2016 qualification hopes.
With Turkey beating Kazakhstan 1-0 earlier in the day, Netherlands went into Friday’s game in Riga in fourth place in Group A, five points behind second-placed Iceland and six adrift of leaders Czech Republic.
And it looked as if it was going to be another disappointing evening for Hiddink as his team struggled to take advantage of the numerous opportunities they created.
But the introduction of PSV attacking midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum turned the game in Netherlands’ favour.
Wijnaldum broke the deadlock in the 67th minute with a scrappy finish before Luciano Narsingh put the game beyond doubt.
Winger Narsingh raced beyond the Latvia defence and made it 2-0 with a confident strike, securing a victory that moves them within three points of Czech Republic, who dropped to second with a 2-1 loss to Iceland.
Latvia made a bright start without creating any goalscoring opportunities and were almost punished in the 11th minute as Memphis Depay volleyed into the ground and over the crossbar after good work down the right from Narsingh, although the ball appeared to have crossed the line before the PSV man put in his low cross.
The hosts lived dangerously at the back and were fortunate not to fall behind when midfielder Wesley Sneijder curled an effort against the right-hand post from the edge of the area.
Robin van Persie then forced Andris Vanins to turn round the near post before the Latvia goalkeeper kept out a fierce close-range strike from Jetro Willems in what quickly developed into a frustrating half for a dominant Netherlands side.
Netherlands saw another chance go begging as Narsingh cut in from the right and bent an effort not far off target, with Latvia forward Valerijs Sabala spurning their first real chance by shooting wide from the edge of the area at the other end.
The visitors’ profligacy continued after the half-time interval, Depay somehow heading wide from Sneijder’s ball back across the face of goal and Wijnaldum’s looping header clawed away by Vanins shortly after he replaced Van Persie.
But Wijnaldum was not to be denied and Netherlands got the goal they deserved as he latched on to Sneijder’s deflected pass and managed to get off a tame effort that crept beyond Vanins’ outstretched arm and into the bottom-right corner.
Narsingh doubled their advantage four minutes later by racing on to an excellent throughball from Daley Blind and coolly slotting the ball home to give Latvia a mountain to climb.
Netherlands were unlucky not to make it 3-0 as Depay was again thwarted by Vanins and Sneijder struck the underside of the crossbar with a delicate lob, yet Hiddink should be pleased with his side’s professional performance in bouncing back from last week’s 4-3 friendly defeat to United States.
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