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Netherlands 2 France 3: Matuidi wins it in frantic finish

Blaise Matuidi scored with three minutes remaining as France recovered from a Netherlands comeback to win 3-2 in Amsterdam on Friday in a match that saw both teams pay tribute to Johan Cruyff.

The sides honoured Dutch great Cruyff, who died on Thursday, by stopping the game for a period of applause in the minute of his iconic old shirt number – 14.

France were already two goals ahead by that point thanks to Antoine Griezmann’s brilliant free-kick and a clinical finish from Olivier Giroud, who has now scored four times in as many games for his country. 

Netherlands improved after the break and Luuk de Jong’s controversial goal – which appeared to be a handball – gave them hope and substitute Ibrahim Afellay looked to have rescued a draw late on with a low 86th-minute strike.

But Didier Deschamps’ men were not to be denied an away win, with Matuidi almost immediately scoring from a tight angle in a dramatic finale.

France have now tasted victory in six of their last seven international matches as they prepare to host Euro 2016 from June, while Netherlands – who did not qualify for the tournament – have suffered four consecutive home defeats.

The away side immediately seized control, with Dimitri Payet’s long-range effort beaten away by Jasper Cillessen before the visitors took the lead after six minutes. 

Griezmann had won a free-kick in a central position just outside the box for a foul by Davy Klaassen and took it himself, arrowing a brilliant effort into the top corner.

It was soon 2-0 when a Payet corner was only half cleared and headed back into the box by Matuidi, allowing Giroud to convert with a first-time volley from just outside the six-yard box.

Griezmann could have had a hat-trick before half-time – he was inches over with one diving header and was then denied by Cillessen’s feet as he headed another attempt towards goal from Payet’s curling cross.

Matuidi was denied a penalty after what he felt was an illegal block by Jeffrey Bruma at the corner of the box, while Quincy Promes’ drive was comfortably saved by Steve Mandanda at the other end in the hosts’ only attempt of a first half that also saw captain Wesley Sneijder taken off due to injury.

Netherlands made a further two changes at half-time, while France switched three players as Leicester City midfielder N’Golo Kante was handed his debut. 

But it was one of the hosts’ new faces who made an instant impact, with substitute Memphis Depay’s curling free-kick bundled over the line by De Jong’s arm fewer than two minutes into the second half.

Mandanda got down well to keep out Klaassen’s header as Netherlands continued to improve significantly and the midfielder volleyed wide from another decent opening.

France responded, though, as the impressive Payet almost restored the two-goal lead with a dipping right-footed effort that struck the foot of the post from 25 yards.

The match appeared to be drifting towards a narrow away win, but Netherlands struck in the closing stages. Depay helped himself to his second assist of the game with a clever low corner to the edge of the box that allowed Afellay to sweep home into the bottom corner.

But in an astonishing finish, France went straight up the other end and secured victory. Payet worked a pass out to substitute Anthony Martial, who in turn slipped a ball through to Matuidi and he finished past Cillessen from a tight angle.

Fri 25 Mar, 2016
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