MINSK (Reuters) – Georginio Wijnaldum’s two first half goals handed Netherlands a 2-1 away win over Belarus on Sunday as they consolidated top place in Group C of the Euro 2020 qualifiers.
Wijnaldum opened the scoring in the 32nd minute with a close-in header and then hit a scorching shot from outside the penalty box for his second nine minutes later.
It moved the Dutch to 15 points from six matches, three ahead of Germany, who were playing in Estonia later on Sunday.
Even if Germany beat Estonia, the Dutch will stay on top because of a better head-to-head record.
It will leave Northern Ireland, also still in contention, back in third place with 12 points, also from six games.
Wijnaldum had to stretch to get onto the end of a delicate chip from Quincy Promes for his opening goal.
The Liverpool midfielder then collected the ball outside the home team’s penalty area, took two steps before unleashing a rocket-like shot that gave goalkeeper Aleksandr Gutor no chance.
But the Dutch were made to sweat after halftime as the home team pulled a goal back though Stanislav Dragun in the 53rd minute.
It set up a spell of tidy play from Belarus before the more polished Dutch wrestled control of the game away from them for the final 20-odd minutes.
Wijnaldum came close to his hat-trick 10 minutes from time but found his way blocked, only to set up Donyell Malen, whose close range effort was superbly saved by Gutor.
(Reporting by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)