Denzel Dumfries scores dramatic late winner in five-goal thriller
FRANK DE BOER’S tactical tinkering meant Holland exploded back into the Euros big time.
The Dutch coach has been accused of being too cautious with his formation and overly-cautious approach to games.
But all that went out of the window as his cavalier team blew a two goal lead only to snatch a priceless win with five minutes to go on a breathless, balmy night in Amsterdam.
A five-goal thriller – that also serves as Holland’s first win at a European Championship finals since 2008 – is no bad way to signal a return.
De Boer snatched three points in his first game of Euro 2020, but more importantly proved a point to anyone who thought his team was going to bore its way to mediocrity this summer.
Whether this pulsating night will ease any of the pressure on de Boer remains to be seen but to anyone else watching this was the game that set this tournament alight.
This one had everything, heroic goalkeeping, cracking goals and an exciting late climax. The stuff that international tournaments should be made of.
Holland walked away breathless with the win and Ukraine will be devastated at losing having clawed their way back into contention in an electric second half.
A magnificent curling strike from captain and West Ham’s forgotten midfielder Anriy Yarmolenko followed by a brilliant headed equaliser from Roman Yaremchuk pulled them level in a four minute burst.
Throw in the 20-yard opener from stand-in Holland skipper Georgino Wijnaldum, the man for the big nights in his Liverpool days, and heroic goalkeeping from Ukraine’s Georgiy Bushchan would be enough adrenaline to satisfy anyone.
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Then the colourfully-named Denzel Dumfries, a right wing back by trade headed in his first international goal to settle it with five minutes to go and confirm the second Group C game as the best of the competition so far.
It isn’t enough to put the Dutch top of their group. They must sit in second behind Austria who earlier beat North Macedonia 3-1. But for pure joy and excitement it will be heard to beat right through until the final next month.
Even De Boer, trying to restore his battered managerial reputation, might find it hard to work out whether he should be delighted with his team’s enterprise and battling spirit, or furious at how they nearly threw it all away – at home.
Missing Euro 2016 and the last World Cup has been hard to take for this tiny national that has big ideas about football.
De Boer, famously sacked by Crystal Palace just ten weeks into a three-year contract without his team scoring a goal, has also been stung by recent history.
But everybody likes to see Holland in big finals and playing the brand of stylish football they came to symbolise.
De Boer’s fancy for putting defence first has caused major controversy. To the extent that a light plane flew over training two days ago trailing a banner imploring him to ditch 5-3-2 in favour of the more swashbuckling 4-3-3.
Holland blew the covers off in their opening match but it looked as if it would still end in frustration with Bushchan so composed in the Ukraine goal.
The Dinamo Kiev keeper only earned his first cap last October but looked supremely confident keeping out Wijnaldum and Weghorst in a first-half he will remember forever.
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The second was one to forget. Seven minutes after the break he pawed at a low cross that allowed Wijnaldum to blast home the opener.
Then 6ft 6in Weghorst, linked with West Ham, grabbed number two and it looked all over until a Dutch defence missing its imperious leader in Virgil van Dijk crumbled and allowed Ukraine to make a fight of it.
But credit to the Dutch and their resilience too as Dumfries kept cool to head home a cross from Manchester City defender Nathan Ake to win it at the death.