Netherlands 1-1 Ecuador: Gakpo and Valencia strike as spoils shared
The Netherlands missed the chance to become the first team at the World Cup to cement a last-16 place as Ecuador's Enner Valencia cancelled out Cody Gakpo's sublime strike in Friday's 1-1 draw.
As in Monday's win over Senegal, Louis van Gaal's team were far from their fluid best, though they still took an early lead when in-demand forward Gakpo rifled in from 20 yards.
However, Ecuador were lively throughout and were good value for their leveller, which made Valencia just the fourth player in World Cup history to score six consecutive goals for a nation at the tournament, though the striker was forced off injured just before the end of the contest.
That could impact his hopes of landing the Golden Boot, but Valencia's strike kept Ecuador and the Oranje locked together on four points in Group A, and condemned hosts Qatar to an early exit after their 3-1 defeat to Senegal.
The Netherlands needed just six minutes to take the lead, and they did so in spectacular fashion as Gakpo latched onto Davy Klaassen's flick-on before hammering into the top-left corner.
Ecuador offered a positive response to that setback, however, forcing Virgil van Dijk into two last-ditch interventions before Valencia tested Andries Noppert from range.
La Tri thought they had found a leveller on the stroke of half-time, but Pervis Estupinan's instinctive finish was chalked off after the offside Jackson Porozo was ruled to have blocked Noppert's view.
Ecuador were not to be denied again within four minutes of the restart though, as Valencia pounced to tap home the rebound when Noppert saved Estupinan's effort.
Gustavo Alfaro's side almost capped an encouraging display with a second when Gonzalo Plata rattled the crossbar with a fine left-footed effort.
However, Ecuador's mood was dampened by a significant blow in the closing exchanges as Valencia was carried off on a stretcher after going down clutching his knee.
What does it mean? Netherlands frustrated as hosts make unwanted history
Excluding penalty shoot-outs, Van Gaal is yet to lose a World Cup game in charge of the Netherlands (W6 D3) – tying Italy great Vittorio Pozzo's record for the most games played without suffering a defeat at the competition (nine).
However, he may be relieved to escape with a point after Ecuador threatened a remarkable turnaround, with the experienced Valencia troubling the Oranje throughout.
The result also had significant ramifications elsewhere, ensuring Qatar will become just the second host nation to suffer a first-round elimination at the World Cup, after South Africa in 2010.
Valencia earns a slice of history
Valencia's effort means he has scored each of Ecuador's last six goals at the World Cup (three in 2014, three in 2022) – only Portugal great Eusebio, Italy's Paolo Rossi and Russia's Oleg Salenko have previously achieved that feat for any nation at the finals.
The striker's hopes of setting a new record may be in doubt, however, as he was seen receiving treatment in the dugout after being carried from the field late on.
Gakpo in the spotlight again
Having followed up his fine header against Senegal with a brilliant long-range strike here, Gakpo seems to be enjoying a breakthrough tournament.
The PSV attacker is just the second Netherlands player to score on his first two World Cup appearances after Memphis Depay in 2014, and rumours that he could make a big-money move to the Premier League look unlikely to go away any time soon.
Key Opta facts
- Netherlands have now avoided defeat in each of their last 15 World Cup group games (W11 D4); only Germany between 1990 and 2010 and Brazil currently (both 16) have enjoyed longer such runs. Indeed, since reaching the final in 2010, they have played more games at the World Cup without suffering a defeat (9) than any other side.
- Ecuador have now gone unbeaten in four consecutive World Cup games for the first time in their history (W2 D2), while it was just the second time they have avoided defeat in their opening two games of a World Cup after 2006 - the only time they have reached the knockout stages.
- Netherlands failed to win a World Cup match in which they opened the scoring for the first time since a 2-2 draw with Mexico in 1998, having gone two goals ahead on that occasion.
- The opening goal from Gakpo was the first Ecuador have conceded in all competitions in 701 minutes of football, since Argentina's Julian Alvarez struck against them in March.
Both the Netherlands and Ecuador approach their final Group A fixtures requiring just a point to progress to the last 16. Van Gaal's team take on already-eliminated Qatar on Tuesday, while Ecuador face a huge clash with Senegal.