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Weghorst’s first touch gives Dutch late win over Poland

STRIKER Wout Weghorst came off the bench to snatch a late winner with his first touch and give the Netherlands a deserved 2-1 comeback victory over Poland in their Group D opener at the European Championship.

Weghorst had barely been on the field when he slid home Nathan Ake’s perfect pass into the area in the 83rd minute to send the tens of thousands of “Oranje” fans at Hamburg’s Volksparkstadion into raptures.

It was his third consecutive goal as a substitute for the national side.

“So important to get the early win and for me personally it’s a dream scenario,” the 31-year-old said. “I felt the goal coming. Our aim now is to leave with the trophy.”

Hoping to emulate their Euro 1988 triumph — also in Germany — the Dutch dominated from the off with slick-passing attacks led by man-of-the-match Cody Gakpo.

But they were shocked in the 16th minute when Adam Buksa, replacing Poland’s injured goal machine Robert Lewandowski, towered above three defenders for a beautiful flick into the net from stand-in captain Piotr Zielinski’s corner.

“I have mixed feelings. First, there was euphoria but now I’m just sad that we lost that match,” Buksa said. “We definitely played a good match against a really good team… No points in this case. However, we are not putting our guns down.”

The Dutch equalised in the 29th minute with a low shot by the livewire Gakpo from outside the area that took a deflection off defender Bartosz Salamon to beat Wojciech Szczesny.

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To the frustration of coach Ronald Koeman, the profligate Dutch missed a string of first-half chances: classy midfielder Tijjani Reijnders shot just wide, Memphis Depay fluffed two good opportunities, Gakpo put another shot over and Virgil van Dijk saw a close-range strike saved.

At the back, Van Dijk seemed always one step ahead of his man while Ake marauded forward time and again, providing the assists for both goals.

The Dutch wasted more chances in the second half, Denzel Dumfries seeing a header clawed away by Szczesny and Xavi Simons shooting wide before Weghorst came to the rescue.

“I felt we should have been three or 4-1 up by then but if you want to win you must score goals, so we knew we needed to change something up front,” said a relieved Koeman whose team have France and Austria to come in Group D.

“Wout’s aggression is what he brought to the game… He got one moment and swept it in with his left.”

For Polish coach Michal Probierz, it was a disappointing outcome after strong defensive work from a team showing they could perform without Lewandowski’s leadership. It also brought to an end his eight-match unbeaten run with the national side.

After being on the back foot for large parts of the game, the Poles threw caution to the wind towards the end and could have equalised from Karol Swiderski’s shot but for a top-class save by Bart Verbruggen.

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“Of course, the Netherlands were driving this match, However, we had a good few situations even after conceding the second goal, it’s too bad that we are finishing this game with zero points,” said Buksa.

By ANDREW CAWTHORNE

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