ROTTERDAM, Netherlands (Reuters) -Netherlands defender Nathan Ake scored twice and Memphis Depay also got on the scoresheet as the hosts laboured to a 3-0 home win over 10-man Gibraltar in a Euro 2024 qualifier on Monday.
Depay put the hosts ahead at halftime and Ake's double came after the break in another unconvincing Dutch performance, this time against one of Europe’s smallest soccer nations after being thumped in France last week in their first Group B game.
France lead the group on six points from two games after beating Ireland 1-0 away, while second-placed Greece, who have only played once, and the Netherlands have three points.
The Dutch had 48 efforts on goal but only 11 on target, showing little of the sharpness coach Ronald Koeman had been looking for in a reaction to their 4-0 loss in Paris on Friday.
“We were sloppy in possession. It was a very difficult evening," said Dutch skipper Virgil van Dijk.
"We'd hoped to try to destroy them but scored three goals when we actually should have scored a lot more. That is something we have to improve for the next period."
Depay rose to head home Denzel Dumfries’ cross, as Gibraltar’s goalkeeper Dayle Coleing got his timing wrong coming off the line, to put the Dutch ahead in the 23rd minute.
But any hopes at the Feyenoord Stadium of that opening up a torrent of goals was stemmed by some determined defending.
Changes from Koeman at halftime -- with Cody Gakpo and Donyell Malan coming on to boost the attack -- added more zip to the Dutch attack and Ake made it 2-0 in the 50th minute. His header went in off the post with Dumfries again the provider.
The hosts were handed a one-man advantage when Liam Walker was sent off for a studs-up tackle on debutant Mats Wieffer one minute later.
But Gibraltar, who had two players aged over 40 in their starting lineup, remained resilient and only conceded the third when Ake’s shot from just inside the area took a wicked deflection off John Sergeant in the 82nd minute.
The visitors handed a debut to Dutch-born Niels Hartman, a student at Loughborough University who spent his teenage years in Gibraltar where his father managed the branch of a major Dutch bank.
But after coming on in the 86th minute he never got a foot on the ball, scurrying around trying to put his body in the way as the Dutch threw everything forward in the closing stages.
“Today was a game in which it is hard to ever do well," added Van Dijk. You have to win 10-0, then you have done well. We had to take the initiative, show intensity and make goals - as many as possible. Unfortunately that did not work out."
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Ken Ferris)