Football: Depay fires Dutch past Belarus in Euro 2020 qualifying opener

The Netherlands' Memphis Depay celebrates scoring their third goal during their opening Euro 2020 qualifier against Belarus in Rotterdam on March 21, 2019.
The Netherlands' Memphis Depay celebrates scoring their third goal during their opening Euro 2020 qualifier against Belarus in Rotterdam on March 21, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

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 (March 21) 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.

Ronald Koeman's exciting young side shoot straight to the top of Group C 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 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.

Depay 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 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.