Blaise Matuidi nets winner on night of Cruyff tributes

Blaise Matuidi’s late strike steered France to a 3-2 victory over Holland on an emotional night at the Amsterdam Arena.

Blaise Matuidi nets winner on night of Cruyff tributes

As had been planned, the friendly was temporarily halted in the 14th minute as a mark of respect for Johan Cruyff, the Dutch football great who died on Thursday.

There was also a poignant moment just prior to kick-off, with a minute’s silence being held in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks in Belgium earlier this week.

The subsequent Cruyff tribute saw the 22 players on the pitch, all wearing black armbands, take part in a minute’s applause that rang out around the stadium.

By that time Holland had already conceded twice, with Antoine Griezmann converting a delightful sixth-minute free-kick and Olivier Giroud firing past Jasper Cillessen in the 13th.

The hosts went on to stage a second-half comeback as Luuk de Jong netted in the 47th minute — with his arm, replays suggested — and substitute Ibrahim Afellay levelled with four minutes to go.

But two minutes after the equaliser, Matuidi’s slotted finish ensured France would claim victory.

The visitors were swiftly into the contest, with Dmitri Payet bringing a diving save out of Cillessen in the fourth minute.

Two minutes later they had the lead after Davy Klaassen fouled Griezmann, who curled the resulting free-kick into the corner of the net.

The advantage was soon doubled as Payet’s corner was flicked out to Matuidi on the edge of the box and his header was caught on the swivel by Giroud with a volleyed finish.

After the applause for Cruyff that followed, France continued to show the greater threat while Holland struggled.

Sloppy Dutch defending allowed Matuidi to deliver a cross from which Griezmann sent a diving header just over.

Griezmann was then allowed acres of space to burst forward and fashion another attempt with his head that Cillessen palmed away.

And after Holland captain Wesley Sneijder was forced to come off with an injury, Cillessen was called upon again in first-half stoppage time to keep out a Patrice Evra header.

The Dutch got a foothold in the game in the second half when Memphis Depay, one of several half-time substitutes, struck a free-kick from which De Jong guided the ball in to make it 2-1. It appeared the last touch was made by De Jong’s arm, but it stood, much to the displeasure of France boss Didier Deschamps.

Holland looked to keep up their new-found momentum and Klaassen saw two efforts claimed by Steve Mandanda —either side of France hitting the woodwork through Payet.

Afellay then seemed to have had the final say late on when, unmarked at the edge of the area, he side-footed home from Depay’s corner.

Seconds later, though, Holland were behind once more as Matuidi collected the ball from Anthony Martial and beat Cillessen.

Meanwhile, Alan Hutton believes Allan McGregor’s “unbelievable” performance in Scotland’s 1-0 win over Czech Republic on Thursday confirmed he is pushing David Marshall for the number one spot.

Marshall has established himself as first-choice goalkeeper under Gordon Strachan but his Hull counterpart got his chance again when the national team boss announced two squads for the trip to Prague and the Denmark friendly at Hampden Park on Tuesday.

McGregor and new call-up Scott Bain of Dundee travelled to the Czech Republic where Watford wide-man Ikechi Anya scored what turned out to the winner after 10 minutes in the Generali Arena when he tucked away a Ross McCormack pass on the counter.

McGregor pulled off a series of fine saves, especially in the first-half when the visitors were under intense pressure, to help the Scots to a morale-boosting win over a side who will be at the European Championship this summer.

Aston Villa defender Hutton, who won his 50th cap, praised his former Rangers team-mate and insists Strachan has a luxury of choice among his goalkeepers with Celtic’s Craig Gordon also in the frame.

The 31-year-old told BBC radio: “He (McGregor) was unbelievable and showed everybody what he is capable of and obviously pushing for number one with Marsh at the moment.

“We are very fortunate in that position. We have three, four, top-class goalkeepers all going to push each other.

“It is great for the squad really.”

More in this section

Sport Push Notifications

By clicking on 'Sign Up' you will be the first to know about our latest and best sporting content on this browser.

Sign Up

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
Cookie Policy Privacy Policy FAQ Help Contact Us Terms and Conditions

© Irish Examiner Ltd