Depay fires Dutch past Belarus in Euro 2020 qualifying opener


Rotterdam (Netherlands) (AFP)

Memphis Depay dazzled for the Netherlands with a brace and two assists as they cruised past Belarus 4-0 in their opening Euro 2020 qualifier on Thursday despite having to play the final 20 minutes with 10 men.

Depay set the Dutch on their way just seconds into the match and slotted home a second-half penalty after setting up Georginio Wijnaldum for an simple second 21 minutes in, before crossing for Virgil van Dijk to nod in the fourth with his side down to 10 after final substitute Kenny Tete limped off with a hamstring injury.

"It's hard to choose between the goals and the assists," said Depay after his latest starring display for the resurgent national team.

"The first goal was good because it was the outside of my foot, but I also enjoyed the flick that set up the second."

Ronald Koeman's exciting young side shoot straight to the top of Group C, level on three points with Northern Ireland, ahead of Sunday's clash with Germany, who they knocked out of the Nations League the last time they met in November.

The Dutch have been a revelation since Koeman took charge in the wake of their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, beating both the Germans and world champions France to win their Nations League group and set up a semi-final clash with England in June.

"It was a shame to have to play the last 20 minutes with 10 men," said the former Ajax, Southampton and Everton boss.

"I was angry at myself ... but Denzel (Dumfries) felt a twinge in his groin so I had to make the change."

- Dutch dynamos -

It was uphill for Belarus from the first minute on Thursday after they handed Depay his opener, the Lyon attacker racing onto Igor Shitov's dreadful backpass before slotting home from a tight angle.

Depay then laid on Wijnaldum for the hosts' second, holding up Denzel Dumfries's cross before a rolling in the Liverpool midfielder with a cheeky backheel that left him a simple close range finish.

The 25-year-old, who has been inconsistent for Lyon this season, should have had his second six minutes before the break but got tangled up as he tried to connect with Ryan Babel's cross and sent the ball flashing wide.

However he has consistently performed under Koeman and he tucked away his sixth goal in four home international matches from the spot 15 minutes after the break, following Mikhail Sivakov's dreadful foul on Wijnaldum.

Everything looked to be running smoothly until Tete's injury, which came after Depay's Lyon teammate pulled his hamstring moments after replacing Dumfries and forced Koeman to switch to a more defensive formation.

However star man Depay helped deliver the icing on the cake with four minutes left, whipping across for Liverpool defender Van Dijk after his initial shot was saved by Andrey Gorbunov.