Wout Weghorst ended Wales’ impressive home unbeaten run by scoring a late winner in a dramatic injury-time as Netherlands ran out 2-1 winners in Cardiff.
The Netherlands were chasing an 11th game unbeaten under Louis van Gaal, and Teun Koopmeiners’ goal put them well on their way to achieving that.
Both teams fielded weakened sides – in the Netherlands case they made 11 changes from the side that had thumped Belgium 4-1 in their Nations League opener.
Robert Page had made seven changes from Wales’ historic win over Ukraine that qualified them for the World Cup and Gareth Bale’s appearance with 13 minutes left from the bench drew easily the night’s biggest cheer.
And it had the desired effect, as Wales found another gear in the closing stages and Rhys Norrington-Davies headed home a stoppage-time equaliser from Connor Roberts’ cross.
But just when Wales thought they had done enough for a point and to extend their unbeaten home run to 20 games, the visitors regained the lead through Weghorst’s header after a fine run from Frenkie de Jong.
And it was enough for a 2-1 win as they took charge of their Nations League group following a 4-1 success against Belgium five days ago.
Bale: We need to learn the dark arts
Gareth Bale speaking to S4C:
“It was a difficult game as we didn’t have a full-strength squad but the boys that came in worked hard. To get the equaliser and to then concede was gutting but we have to learn the dark arts to take him down. We need to use this as a learning experience. If that happens again in the World Cup, we need to do what we need to do.
“We are in Group A as we deserve to be here and to test ourselves against the world’s best. If you are in the tier below you probably get away with that last chance but when you play the top teams and don’t do the things you need to do you get punished. It’s hard to take but we are a young team.”
Page: We weren’t streetwise enough
Wales boss Rob Page said: “I feel the same as I did after Poland in that I’m disappointed we haven’t got a draw. It was a great opportunity but we showed naivety in seeing the game out. That’s a valuable lesson to learn. That is the benefit of the night in that we have to learn from those mistakes with the younger players knowing they need to be ruthless in the middle of the park to make a foul to see the game out. I can’t fault the players.
“We weren’t streetwise enough to get the job done.”
- Netherlands have won all nine of their encounters against Wales by an aggregate scoreline of 26-6.
- Wales suffered their first home defeat in a competitive international since November 2018 (vs Denmark also in the Nations League), having been unbeaten in 13 such matches coming into tonight’s game.
- Netherlands are unbeaten in their 11 games across all competitions since Louis van Gaal returned as manager (W8 D3). The last time they had a longer run of games without defeat was between 2012 and 2013, when they went 17 matches unbeaten – also under Van Gaal.
Wales will host Belgium at the Cardiff City Stadium at 7.45pm on Saturday while the Netherlands host Poland at the same time at De Kuip in Rotterdam.