Saturday 1 October 2016

Matuidi has the final say on emotional night in Holland

Published 26/03/2016 | 02:30

Wesley Sneijder of the Netherlands stands in the 14th minute for a minute’s silence to remember Johan Cruyff. Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Wesley Sneijder of the Netherlands stands in the 14th minute for a minute’s silence to remember Johan Cruyff. Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Blaise Matuidi's late strike steered France to a 3-2 victory over Holland on an emotional night at the Amsterdam Arena.

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As had been planned, the friendly was temporarily halted in the 14th minute as a mark of respect for Johan Cruyff, the Dutch football great who died on Thursday.

There was also a poignant moment just prior to kick-off, with a minute's silence being held in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks in Belgium earlier this week.

The subsequent Cruyff tribute saw the 22 players on the pitch, all wearing black armbands, take part in a minute's applause that rang out around the stadium.

Delightful

By that time Holland had already conceded twice, with Antoine Griezmann converting a delightful sixth-minute free-kick and Olivier Giroud firing past Jasper Cillessen in the 13th.

The hosts went on to stage a second-half comeback as Luuk de Jong netted in the 47th minute - with his arm, replays suggested - and substitute Ibrahim Afellay levelled with four minutes to go.

But two minutes after the equaliser, Matuidi's slotted finish ensured France would claim victory.

Elsewhere, Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal suffered a surprise home defeat by Bulgaria.

Marcelinho's 19th-minute effort settled the match as the visitors ran out 1-0 winners.

Real Madrid star Ronaldo was denied by Bulgaria goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov from the penalty spot as Portugal searched in vain for an equaliser.

Elsewhere, an own goal from Maxime Chanot and strikes from Milan Djuric and Miralem Pjanic gave Bosnia-Herzegovina a 3-0 win in Luxembourg.

Belarus drew 0-0 in Armenia while Latvia's trip to Slovakia was also goalless.

Lionel Messi's return sparked Argentina to a 2-1 win over Chile in Santiago overnight on Thursday, breathing new life into their South American qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup.

Messi, who had missed the first four games last year with a knee injury, laid on the 24th-minute winner for defender Gabriel Mercado after Angel Di Maria had cancelled out Felipe Gutierrez's opener for Chile.

Argentina, beaten finalists at the last World Cup in Brazil, moved up to fourth in the 10-team group on eight points from five games. The top four qualify automatically for Russia with the fifth-ranked team going into an inter-continental play-off.

"We had to win in whatever way we could," Messi said afterwards. "I was glad to be back to help this group of players who fight for every point to the death."

Irish Independent

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