A Wout Weghorst header deep into injury time sees Netherlands beat Wales 2-1 in the Nations League at the Cardiff City Stadium, extending their unbeaten run to 11 matches.
Before kick-off, the Cardiff City Stadium gave Robert Page’s side a rapturous reception in recognition of their achievement in having secured World Cup qualification for the first time since 1958 just three days earlier.
There were no signs of a Wales hangover in the first half despite Sunday’s triumph, with the Dragons almost taking the lead through a Joe Rodon header within the first 20 minutes, while the Netherlands had no shots on target.
However, things turn quickly in football and just minutes after the start of the second half the Netherlands took the lead through Teun Koopmeiners.
It looked like Rhys Norrington-Davies had rescued a point for Wales in added time, but a thumping header from Weghorst seconds later handed Netherlands the win.
The victory sees Louis van Gaal’s side retain top spot in Group A4, while Wales are rooted at the bottom on zero points and play second-placed Belgium at the weekend.
A BATTLE OF THE UNDERSTUDIES… A good way of determining whether a side will be successful in a tournament is whether a manager has the strength-in-depth to chop and change.
Tonight was very much a battle between two teams of understudies, as Page replaced the Dragons’ weary heroes Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey with a younger, less experienced contingent of players, while Van Gaal surprisingly made 11 changes to the Netherlands team that started against Belgium.
Paroixically, it was a good showing from Wales’ second string, while the changes to the Netherlands starting 11 made Van Gaal’s in-form side seem very ordinary.
Despite the last-gasp victory many in the Netherlands’ second string were unable to truly grasp their opportunity, with the side failing to muster a single shot on target in the first half for the first time since a Euro 2020 match against the Czech Republic during Frank De Boer’s dreary spell in charge.
In his third spell in at the helm Van Gaal has yet to suffer a defeat as Netherlands boss, however if the Oranje want to challenge at the Qatar World Cup they will need to see more quality from the squad players.
Meanwhile, Wales will just be hoping to get out of their group in Qatar and in tonight’s performance it looks like they may have the quality to do so.
Their success in recent years has often been led by Bale and Ramsey magic, but the performances of Brennan Johnson and Norrington-Davies in particular suggest they will have pace and talent to bring off the bench for November’s World Cup.
MAN OF THE MATC
WOUT WEGHORST (NETHERLANDS) – It was a toss-up between Norrington-Davies and the Netherlands striker but Weghorst edges it after his brilliant powered header won the game for Van Gaal’s side.
While the Netherlands were not great as a team, the Burnley big-man was a menace throughout, battling for every header and occasionally acting as a focal point for some intricate passing moves.
Weghorst topped off his performance with a 94th minute diving header which he powered beyond Adam Davies in the Wales net.
Wales: Ward – 6, Roberts – 6, Mepham – 7, Rodon – 7, B. Davies – 7, Norrington-Davies – 9, Morrell – 8, Levitt – 7, Wilson – 7, James – 8, Johnson – 8… Subs: A. Davies – 5, Smith – 6, Bale – 6, Colwill – 6, Matondo – 6
Netherlands: Flekken – 6, Teze – 6, De Ligt – 6, De Vrij – 6, Hateboer – 5, Schouten – 7, Koopmeiners – 7, Malacia – 6, Lang – 6 , Gakpo – 7, Weghorst – 9… Subs: Martins Indi – 6, De Jong – 7, Til – N/A, Bergwijn – 6
13’ – WALES CHANCE – Harry Wilson’s wicked delivery found Rodon at the back post, who leapt highest and connected well with the cross, but the Spurs man’s effort was inches wide of the Netherlands goal.
44’ – NETHERLANDS CHANCE – Cody Gakpo drove into the Wales box, cut onto his right foot and struck a shot from close range at goal, however the Dutchman’s effort was heroically deflected out for a corner by Chris Mepham.
49’ GOAL! WALES 0 – 1 NETHERLANDS – Koopmeiners brilliantly trapped a fizzed Jerdy Schouten pass on the edge of the box before striking the ball into the bottom corner, beyond Davies in the Wales goal.
90+2 – GOAL! WALES 1 – 1 NETHERLANDS – Norrington-Davies, whose runs form deep into the box had caused the Netherlands defence problems all game, towered over Hans Hateboer to head home a Connor Roberts cross.
90+4 GOAL! WALES 1 – 2 NETHERLANDS – Frenkie De Jong glided past three Welsh players, before feeding the ball out wide for a cross to come in . When it did, Weghorst produced a fantastic diving header which he powered past a helpless Davies in the Wales goal.