13 October 2019 19:47
Georginio Wijnaldum came to Netherlands' rescue as their strikers misfired in Minsk, with his double sinking Belarus. Georginio Wijnaldum led the Dutch charge towards as his superb double gave a 2-1 win in Belarus. After the calamity of failing to qualify for last year's World Cup, Netherlands are close to securing their return to the big stage, although they were unimpressive in Minsk. Memphis Depay was absent with a thigh injury, and the forward was badly missed after his strong form for Oranje this year. It fell to midfielder Wijnaldum to make the difference, with his neat header and spectacular long-range strike doing the damage for Ronald Koeman's men before Belarus' Stanislav Dragun breathed fresh life into the contest.
The hosts should have gone ahead midway through the first half when Igor Stasevich's cross from the right fell to Denis Laptev, seven yards from goal. An opening goal looked inevitable, but Matthijs de Ligt threw himself brilliantly in front of the striker's shot to make a block, before Laptev sent his follow-up off target. Wijnaldum made the breakthrough in the 32nd minute, jumping to guide a cross from Quincy Promes into the top left corner. His second goal nine minutes later was a stunning effort from 28 yards, raking from the left of goal into the right top corner. Evgeni Yablonski was a yard away from a copycat strike for Belarus moments before half-time. The hosts got one back after 53 minutes when Dragun headed home Denis Polyakov's cross from the left, getting in behind Virgil van Dijk - a rare error from the centre-back. It was a first goal at home for Belarus since last October, when they beat Luxembourg 1-0, and Netherlands were rattled, Stasevich and Yablonski both threatening to bring the game level. Luuk de Jong headed over as Netherlands looked for a third goal to kill the contest, and Donyell Malen fluffed a great chance late on. What does it mean? Netherlands and have established control of Group C, with's challenge apparently fading, so expect the Dutch to be at next year's finals. Belarus will be in the play-offs after winning their Nations League group. Wijnaldum? The midfielder came up with the goods when Netherlands' forwards were struggling to make a breakthrough in Depay's absence. Wijnaldum continues to score big goals for club and country and Sunday's second strike was one for a career highlights reel. Mixed Minsk memories Netherlands suffered disappointment two years ago while in the capital of Belarus, as their World Cup qualification hopes were dashed. The Dutch won 3-1 that night, but an 8-0 victory for rivals over Luxembourg earlier in the day meant Netherlands were effectively doomed to miss out on the finals. This was a better night, but nervy all the same. Netherlands face Northern Ireland and Estonia next month, as they wrap up their group campaign and look to seal qualification. Belarus have just one group game left, away to Germany.