CARDIFF — A second-string Netherlands beat Wales 2-1 away after a dramatic late finale in the Nations League on Wednesday, bringing the hosts back down to earth after they secured World Cup qualification at the weekend.
Wout Weghorst won the game for the Dutch, scoring with a header four minutes into stoppage time, straight after Wales looked to have snatched a late draw when Rhys Norrington-Davies netted two minutes into stoppage time.
Teun Koopmeiners opened the scoring five minutes into the second half to give the visitors the lead, after coach Louis van Gaal had changed his entire team from the side that opened their League A Group Four campaign with a 4-1 thumping of neighbor Belgium last Friday.
Wales also rested some of its senior squad members after winning a World Cup place for the first time in 64 years when they beat Ukraine 1-0 on Sunday, allowing fringe players to stake a claim for selection in the Qatar-bound team.
Despite looking the brighter of the two sides in the first half, Wales was caught early in the second when Koopmeiners found a pocket of space to fire home from the edge of the area with his weaker right foot after being set up by debutant Jerdy Schouten.
The Dutch had only one chance in the first 45 minutes, on the stroke of half time, when Cody Gakpo’s shot was deflected away for a corner by Chris Mepham.
Before that, Wales’s Harry Wilson hit the target with a free kick but his effort was punched away by Dutch goalkeeper Mark Flekken.
Welsh talisman Gareth Bale made a cameo appearance in the final quarter-hour, but it was Norrington-Davies who rose powerfully at the back post to head home an equalizer.
Yet almost straight from the kickoff, Frenkie de Jong surged forward at the start of a move that ended with Weghorst diving to head home a dramatic winner.
“It was a fantastic counter but we were sloppy in the first half, turned over a lot of possession and so we couldn’t attack. But I keep saying we have a tremendous squad,” Van Gaal told Dutch NOS television after the game.
Wales has now lost both games of the new Nations League campaign after defeat in Poland a week ago and also saw a 19-match unbeaten home record come to an inauspicious end.
Wednesday’s win extended the Netherlands’ 100% record over Wales to nine matches and put it top of the Nations League group.
The Dutch next hosts Poland in Rotterdam on Saturday when Wales hosts Belgium. — Reuters