The Netherlands have returned to the World Cup stage with a statement win against the African champions after surviving an onslaught for most of the evening.
The third game of the 2022 FIFA World Cup provided more entertainment for watchers than the first two games did. But Louis Van Gaal's men will be very relieved after their win.
The game, billed as the decisive game of Group A, was skewed in favour of The Netherlands from the onset by the media, thanks to their FIFA ranking. However, they met a different challenge from the first blast of the whistle.
Netherlands joined England and a few other countries from backing out of the campaign to sport the One Love armband in support of the LGBTQ+ community. But on the pitch, it was a herculean task for them to surmount the African Champions, thanks to two late goals from rising star Cody Gakpo and Davy Klaasen.
Senegal fall at the death
The Netherlands sat back for much of the game, carefully building to find a way into Senegal's box. The African champions staved off their pressure and responded in equal measure, making more direct runs and passes into the European team's area.
The contest looked like ending 0 - 0 and it would have been a befitting scoreline for a tough and entertaining game, until Gakpo rose highest to glance home Frenkie De Jong's cross into the area past Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy. The 2021 FIFA The Best goalkeeper could have done better in the 99th minute also.
After a weak parry from a shot by substitute Memphis Depay which fell in open area, he failed to recover on time until another substitute Davy Klaassen, smashed the ball home to score the second latest goal ever scored at a World Cup.
Senegal, meanwhile, had 15 shots at the Netherlands goal, with four being on target. Debutant goalkeeper Andries Noppert was put to work, making four very crucial saves in a man of the match performance. Many wonder what could have happened if Sadio Mane had been in attack for the Teranga Lions, who, apart from their four shots on target, were largely toothless in attack.
Oranje fans will have their veteran manager Van Gaal to thank as his substitutions helped to tilt the game slightly back in their favour. The introduction of Depay, who was returning to action after two months sidelined with a hamstring injury helped to steady the team, while Teun Koopmeiners came in minutes later to help De Jong, who was alone in the midfield.
The goals came very late in the tie, but the Netherlands will be grateful to have braved the jungle of Teranga and come out unscathed.
Senegal will face Qatar for a chance at recovery while Netherlands face Ecuador, who could prove to be as tough as Senegal on November 25.