Amsterdam, Sep 4 (efe-epa).- The Netherlands shook off the abrupt departure of coach Ronald Koeman for FC Barcelona by defeating Poland 1-0 here Friday to take the early lead in League A Group 1 of the 2020-2021 UEFA Nations League.
A lack of precision in the final third kept the hosts from winning by a bigger margin. The Dutch had 65 percent possession and outshot Poland 14-4 behind closed doors at Amsterdam’s Johan Cruyff Arena.
Runners-up in last year’s inaugural Nations League, the Dutchmen were playing their first match under the direction of interim coach Dwight Lodeweges, 62, who was one of Koeman’s assistants.
The new boss had to improvise in the absence of injured defenders Matthijs de Ligt, Daley Blind and Stefan de Vrij, though a back line anchored by Virgil van Dijk would be the envy by plenty of coaches.
Poland, meanwhile, were without star striker Robert Lewandowski, who is enjoying some time off after leading Bayern Munich to victory in the Champions League final on Aug. 23.
The absence of Lewandowski could have been an opportunity for Krzysztof Piatek to shine, but the team’s cautious, defense-first approach was less than conducive.
Poland’s decision to sit back left their opponents with plenty of space, yet many of the players seemed to lack the legs to take advantage and the first real chance came only in the 21st minute, when Memphis Depay got the ball to an unmarked Quincy Promes, whose low shot didn’t miss by much.
Nathan Ake and Van Dijk failed to convert opportunities off corners before Piatek forced a save from Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen at the half-hour mark.
Shortly before the break, Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong chested a deep pass from Depay directly onto his foot and let fly, but the shot hit the post.
The 0-0 deadlocked was finally broken in the 61st minute by Steven Bergwijn, who got his first international goal on a play that began with a De Jong pass to Hans Hateboer.
Two minutes later, Poland coach Jerzy Brzczek tried to jump-start his attack by replacing Piatek with Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik, to no avail.
Depay, Promes and Georginio Wijnaldum – rumored to be headed from Liverpool to Barça – all had chances to increase the lead for the Dutch, as did recent Manchester United signing Donny van de Beek, who came on as a sub in the 74th minute.
The Netherlands sit atop Group 1 with 3 points, 2 more than both Italy and Bosnia-Herzegovina, who drew 1-1 Friday in Florence, where the Azzurri had to come from behind after conceding.
Italy came into the contest having won a record 11 matches in a row under the guidance of Roberto Mancini, who took charge of the side after they failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the first in 60 years not to include the Italians.
After a largely uneventful first half, Bosnia’s Armin Hodzic hit the post early in the second.
The following sequence saw an Italian attack culminating in a Lorenzo Insigne header that likewise bounced off the woodwork.
The match clock was approaching the hour-mark when Edin Dzeko, who plays his club football for AS Roma, scored off a corner to give Bosnia a 1-0 lead.
Inter Milan’s Stefano Sensi brought Italy level in the 67th minute with a shot that took a fortunate deflection off a Bosnian defender.
Midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo came close to putting the hosts ahead in the 75th minute and Lazio’s Ciro Immobile, who led Serie A in scoring with 36 goals, also fell short on a chance to win the match.