AMSTERDAM AUDITIONS GIVE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
England put a torrid recent record against the Dutch behind them, with victory in Amsterdam. Gareth Southgate’s side beat Holland for the first time since at Euro ’96, thanks to Jesse Lingard’s first international goal.
Manager Gareth Southgate proceeded with three at the back in England’s first game of 2018. Jordan Pickford started in goal for The Three Lions, with Jordan Henderson captaining England in the absence of the injured Harry Kane. Kyle Walker took his place in an unfamiliar back three, with Joe Gomez, Jesse Lingard and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all given rare starts. The Netherlands, in their first match under Ronald Koeman, lined up in a similar fashion. Memphis Depay, Georginio Wijnaldum, Patrick van Aanholt and new captain Virgil van Dijk all started for them.
As the match got underway in the Johan Cruyff Amsterdam ArenA, it was the World Cup bound Three Lions who got off to the better start. Danny Rose enjoyed some uncontested runs down the left flank, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain fired in a shot on target from central midfield. It was clear that England’s competence on the ball has improved hugely since the conversion to a three-man backline. Just ten minutes in though, as the young Liverpool defender crumpled under an aerial challenge, Joe Gomez had to make way for Leicester City’s Harry Maguire. It was terrible shame for a young defender whose rise to the top has happened phenomenally fast. However, Gomez has time on his side, as does Maguire.
Both teams battled for possession in the minutes that followed. And when the next chance arrived, it went the hosts’ way. With twenty-two minutes gone, Ajax teenager Matthijs de Ligt came forward from centre-back and fired a shot which, admittedly, Pickford gathered with relative ease. England continued to cause the Dutch backline problems, and Danny Rose won a freekick from fullback Hans Hateboer. Kieran Trippier’s ball in was a good one, and when captain Jordan Henderson skimmed a header goalwards, it looked destined to bring England the lead. Unfortunately, however, Marcus Rashford could not stretch far enough, and the ball trickled wide for a goal kick. The Dutch tried to pass their way to halftime, but were handed a late chance as Memphis Depay fired tamely at Pickford. England’s dominance was unrecognised at the break.
Within five minutes of the restart, Holland had scored a quite-rightly disallowed goal, and England had failed to capitalise on three promising counter-attacks. As England ramped up the pressure, referee Jesús Gil Manzano failed to award them a clear penalty. The replays showed that defender de Ligt clipped Marcus Rashford, after the Manchester United man got away. However, in the absence of VAR, cruelly, England were robbed of a chance to break the deadlock. They regrouped however, but Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling struggled to capitalise on a golden opportunity. Neither could prod the ball home in a crowded box following a corner.
England did take the lead on the hour mark. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain cantered forward and found Jesse Lingard. The United revelation found a pass out wide to an unmarked Danny Rose. Tottenham’s Rose whipped in a cross, which was tapped away by a Dutch heel. The ball fell kindly to Lingard, who fired a low shot into the net from 20-yards, beyond the reach of goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet. The goalkeeper could perhaps have done better, but Lingard had given England a lead that their performance thoroughly warranted.
Quincy Promes and Bas Dost missed good chances for Holland, who were growing into the game. Memphis Depay whipped a freekick into the arms of Pickford too. Dele Alli, Jamie Vardy and Danny Welbeck came on for England on 68 minutes, and three minutes later, so did Ashley Young. Kieran Trippier almost rifled the ball past Zoet for 2-0, but the goalkeeper saved well. England conceded a few half chances as they tried to play the game out, and Gareth Southgate’s final substitute was the trusted Eric Dier – on for Gomez’s deputy Harry Maguire. The referee blew the final whistle, and England were able to finally celebrate victory over the Netherlands, for the first time in twenty-two years.
Southgate is expected to make significant changes to the starting line-up for the Wembley fixture with Italy on Tuesday, with Jack Butland starting in goal. In Amsterdam, it ended the Netherlands 0-1 England.