The Netherlands took control of World Cup qualifying Group G with a 1-0 victory over Latvia on Friday. Davy Klaassen scored the only goal of the game in the first half as Oranje edged an uninspiring contest in Riga. After scoring 10 goals in their previous two matches against Montenegro and Turkey, Louis van Gaal's men were far more laboured against a side whose only World Cup qualifying wins since the end of 2013 have come against Andorra and Gibraltar.
Klaassen's opening goal was a well-taken volley on the turn from Memphis Depay's corner, as the Netherlands started in positive fashion. Yet Klaassen was required to make a double block against Andrejs Ciganiks and Roberts Uldrikis at the other end barely a minute later following a mistake near the halfway line by captain Virgil van Dijk.
Latvia continued to offer a threat on the break, but the visitors should have made their position more comfortable six minutes after half-time, Cody Gakpo heading Daley Blind's cross over the bar when Klaassen was perhaps better placed to meet it. The Netherlands continued to control around 75 per cent of the possession without really threatening Roberts Ozols in the Latvia goal, at least until substitute Ryan Gravenberch was thwarted by the keeper's legs from inside the penalty area.
Latvia almost produced a late shock in injury time, Igors Tarasovs drawing a one-handed save from Justin Bijlow after the Netherlands failed to clear a corner.
What does it mean? Netherlands two points clear in Group G
With Turkey and Norway playing out a draw in Istanbul, the Netherlands were able to move two points clear at the top of the group. Given their next game is at home to Gibraltar, who have lost all seven of their qualifiers, Van Gaal's side have a good chance to put themselves in a strong position ahead of the final two rounds of matches.
Klaassen holds the key
There were not many especially bright performances but Klaassen deserves credit for the decisive moments: his volley on the spin from 12 yards out was well controlled, and his endeavour in his own box moments later made sure there was to be no quick equaliser. He was the only Netherlands player to manage more than a single shot on target, too – although he only had two of those.
Complacency almost proves costly
While the final half-hour was firmly under their control, the Netherlands allowed Latvia far too many opportunities to attack in the first half as they failed to build on their lead. One particularly slack piece of play from Van Dijk in the opponents' half presented them with their best chance of the contest.
The Netherlands host Gibraltar on Monday, when Latvia are at home to Turkey.
Standout matches today