Memphis Depay masterminds Netherlands victory over Austria

Netherlands manager Frank de Boer saw his unfancied team become the third so far to record a second consecutive victory
Memphis Depay masterminds Netherlands victory over Austria

Memphis Depay, covered by his teammates, of the Netherlands celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal. Picture: AP Photo/Peter Dejong

NETHERLANDS 2 AUSTRIA 0

This may be one of the most unusual ever international football tournaments, for numerous reasons, but as Memphis Depay masterminded a Dutch victory that carried his nation through to the knockout stages in Amsterdam last night, the 2020 Euros are suddenly talking on a very familiar look.

Netherlands manager Frank de Boer saw his unfancied team become the third so far to record a second consecutive victory and so join Italy and Belgium as three traditional powerhouse teams to have already booked their place in the competition’s last 16.

The Dutch may not have made as impressive a start as those two or, for that matter, countries like Portugal or France, or even an England side that can secure their own place in the second stages tonight.

But with wing-back Denzel Dumfries adding a second goal - his second of the tournament - after the interval to ease his side towards a very routine win, the Netherlands suddenly look like a squad with momentum, confidence and, in the form of players like Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum, some key players hitting their stride.

The Dutch were off to a dream start inside 11 minutes, the result of a mistake by Austria’s best player David Alaba who rashly raced out to meet flying wing-back Dumfries, stamping on his foot in the process.

The Israeli referee consulted VAR and then the touchline monitor before pointing to the spot and presenting Depay with a kick which was duly despatched into the bottom left-hand corner of the Austrian goal.

Alaba was booked for his trouble as well and with Marko Arnautovic serving a one-match suspension for his controversial goal celebration in their group win over North Macedonia, it looked like being a long night for the Austrians. The 16,000 fans inside the Johan Cruyff Arena were certainly hoping so after their team had made such a strong start to a game in which victory would guarantee either team a place in the last 16.

Former Manchester United forward Depay, edging closer to a move to Barcelona from Lyon, had been instrumental in that, as had Dumfries, the marauding 25-year-old from PSV threatening to enjoy a break-out tournament.

And, just as importantly, de Boer had been able to bolster his defence for their second group match by bringing in Juventus defender Matthijs de Ligt after injury had ruled him out of the opening group win over the Ukraine.

In the absence of the injured Virgil van Dijk, the return of de Ligt is likely to prove pivotal in strengthening de Boer’s defence.

Not that there was too much for the home defence to worry about in the opening exchanges and Depay might have made an even more spectacular contribution a few minutes after his penalty, when he lashed a vicious shot into the side-netting with the outside of his right boot.

It took until the 28th minute for Austria to muster a shot, through Leipzig midfielder Konrad Laimer, with de Ligt well positioned to make a brave block with his face, allowing Dutch keeper Martin Stekelenburg to reach the interval without his gloves used in anger.

Not that the night was running perfectly for the home team. Depay should have added it before the interval, after a selfless assist from Wout Weghorst, but blazed over a gaping goal.

The need for that cushion became all the more pressing after the restart when the Austrians started the second half showing far more movement and speed in their passing, even winning their first corner in the 52nd minute.

The relief was short-lived and a scintillating Depay corner should have brought a second goal on the hour as Stefan de Vrij’s header was brilliantly saved by Daniel Bachmann and de Ligt’s follow-up shot was blocked.

But eventually, de Boer, made three quick-fire contributions that helped bring about the killer second goal on 67 minutes. Again, Depay was involved with a well-timed pass that allowed PSV sub Donyell Malen to speed upfield ahead of the high Austrian linen until, with only Bachmann to beat, he selflessly squared the ball for Dumfries to convert into the open goal.

The Dutch manager was able to rest legs ahead of the final group game and Austria’s fruitless night was summed up when Alaba shot just wide and substitute Karim Onisiwo headed a great opening meekly at Stekelenburg.

NETHERLANDS (3-4-1-2): Stekelenburg 6; de Ligt 7, de Vrij 6, Blind 6 (Ake 64, 6); Dumfries 8, de Roon 6 (Gravenberch 73, 6), F de Jong 7, van Aanholt 6 (Wijndal 64, 6); Wijnaldum 9; Weghorst 7 (Malen 64, 6), Depay 8 ( L de Jong 82).

AUSTRIA (3-1-4-2): Bachmann 6; Dragovic 5 (Lienhart 83), Alaba 6, Hinteregger 6; X Schlager 8 (Onisiwo 83); Lainer 6, Laimer 5 (Grillitsch 61, 6), Sabitzer 6, Ulmer 7; Gregoritsch 5 (Kalajdzic 61, 6), Baumgartner 5 (Lazaro 69, 6).

Referee: O Grinfeld (Israel) 8

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