AMSTERDAM: Steven Berghuis and Luuk de Jong scored either side of halftime as the Netherlands got their World Cup qualifying hopes back on track with a 2-0 home win over plucky Latvia on Saturday.
The Dutch were looking for a strong response after a shock 4-2 loss to Turkey in Istanbul on Wednesday at the start of their Group G campaign.
The victory left them three points behind early group leaders Turkey, who beat Norway 3-0 on Saturday.
Despite a ferocious onslaught from kickoff — the Dutch had 11 attempts on target in the first 25 minutes — they took until past the half hour to score when Berghuis, who had waited until his 23rd cap for his first international goal, lashed home from the edge of the area.
Before that Davy Klaassen had hit the woodwork and not long after the opening goal De Jong headed an effort against the crossbar.
Latvia goalkeeper Roberts Ozols continued to face a barrage in the second period, coming out on top in several goalmouth scrambles and making some smart stops as he and his team lived a charmed life.
Yet their heroic defending was absent at a 69th minute corner as De Jong leapt unchallenged and headed forcefully home for a second Dutch goal.
A counter attack five minutes from fulltime offered Latvia a lone chance which Andrejs Ciganiks hit against the outside of the post.
Before the match, the Dutch players wore t-shirts designed to highlight the plight of migrant workers in Qatar, who host the next World Cup, joining similar protests made by Norway and Germany players at previous games.
The Dutch walked out onto the field before the start of the game wearing black shirts with the slogan: “Football Supports Change”. Georginio Wijnaldum’s captain’s armband carried the same message.
The match was played in front of 5,000 spectators in the Amsterdam Arena as part of a government-supported study into the amount of contact in crowd situations.
The Dutch now meet Gibraltar in their next group game on Tuesday while Latvia visit Turkey.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Toby Davis)