Denzel Dumfries' late header rescued three points for the Netherlands in their Euro 2020 opener with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Ukraine in Amsterdam.
The Netherlands had held a comfortable two-goal lead through strikes from Georginio Wijnaldum and Wout Weghorst within six minutes of one another shortly after half-time, in a chance-laden game at the Johan Cruyff Arena.
But Ukraine, who had impressed early on before fading badly, sprang back into the game through an Andriy Yarmolenko stunner 15 minutes from time, before shocking their hosts as Roman Yaremchuk headed home Ruslan Malinovskyi's free-kick four minutes later.
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That looked like getting Frank de Boer's tournament off to a disappointing start less than a year into an uncomfortable reign as Netherlands boss, before Dumfries - who should have scored twice in the first half - headed home Nathan Ake's cross to spare the blushes of both his country and manager.
Netherlands: Stekelenburg (6), Dumfries (7), Timber (6), De Vrij (6), Blind (6), Van Aanholt (5), De Roon (6), Wijnaldum (7), F de Jong (7), Depay (5), Weghorst (7).
Subs: Ake (7), Wijndal (6), L De Jong, Veltman (n/a).
Ukraine: Bushchan (6), Karavaev (5), Zabamyi (6), Matviyenko (6), Mykolenko (5), Zinchenko (6), Sydorchuk (5), Malinovskyi (6), Yarmolenko (7), Zubkov (6), Yaremchuk (7).
Subs: Marlos (5), Sharapenko (6).
Man of the match: Denzel Dumfries
Netherlands win it, twice, to paper over patchy performance
Chances at either end inside the opening 90 seconds set the tone for a game full of attacking intent with defensive shape often an afterthought, with Memphis Depay denied by Bushchan when he should have scored after a run from his own half.
Dumfries was first denied by the Ukrainian keeper minutes later before Wijnaldum came close, while Ukraine offered glimpses of their own ability with the ball but only once threatened to trouble Stekelenburg when he denied Yarmolenko from a tight angle.
A Wijnaldum volley and an awful missed header from Dumfries wrapped up the hosts' chances before half-time, before the former made amends when the previously impressive Bushchan pushed a cross into his path, and he emphatically found the top corner from the edge of the box.
Ukraine had barely caught their breath when they were two goals behind, as Dumfries' pressure on Vitaliy Mykolenko released a loose ball to Weghorst to beat Bushchan again, but had to wait for conformation of his first tournament goal due to a lengthy VAR offside check.
The visitors looked out of ideas until Yarmolenko was given space to turn inside by Patrick Van Aanholt and, having opened up space on his left, beat Maarten Stekelenburg with an unstoppable dipping curled effort.
Just as they had been hit by a quick one-two, so would Ukraine reply in kind. Malinovskyi's free-kick was powerfully met by Yaremchuk ahead of Weghorst, and suddenly the visitors were level with 12 minutes to go.
There was still time for one more twist in the game of the still fledgling tournament to date, as Dumfries made amends for his earlier miss with a strong header from Ake's cross to restore the Netherlands lead in the dying minutes, before finally seeing out victory to get off to a winning - if far from perfect - start in Amsterdam.
What the managers said...
Netherlands manager Frank de Boer: "This is the team that I would like to see for the most part - obviously not throwing away a 2-0 lead but I have seen a team that played in a very balanced way, and was very dominant. This is what we would like to see.
"We can be proud, hopefully we can make some more steps like we have done so far tonight."
Ukraine boss Andriy Shevchenko: "I think it was a very interesting game, with a lot of moments and opportunities for both teams. I want to thank my team for the reaction they showed, especially after we were down 2-0 and almost lost the game.
"We had great reaction, found energy to change to attack, changed formation, were balanced, and I think the team showed themselves very well."
Man of the match - Denzel Dumfries
Dumfries' attacking evening was patchy, which was quite impressive considering he scored one and had a hand in making the other two of the Netherlands' three goals.
The wing-back had never scored for his country prior to Sunday night but thanks in part to Ukraine's stubbornly narrow defensive shape and his own relentless movement for the ball, he proved his country's matchwinner in an all-action evening for the 25-year-old.
- Ukraine have lost each of their last six matches at the European Championship finals, the joint-longest run in the competition's history alongside Yugoslavia (six straight defeats from 1968-1984).
- Netherlands have ended a run of four straight defeats at the EUROs. This was their fourth match in the competition at the Johan Cruijff Arena (also three at EURO 2000), remaining unbeaten across the four (W3 D1).
- Ukraine had failed to score with any of their last 72 shots at the EUROs before Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk scored with consecutive efforts, four minutes and six seconds apart.
- Gini Wijnaldum has scored 15 goals in his last 26 appearances for the Netherlands, having scored only eight times in his first 50 games for his national side.
Both teams are back in action on Thursday. Ukraine's second group game comes first, against North Macedonia in Bucharest (kick-off 2pm). The Netherlands are back in front of their own fans later that evening, hosting Austria (kick-off 8pm).