Robben, Depay lead Netherlands to 3-1 defeat of Luxembourg
LUXEMBOURG (AP) — Arjen Robben marked his return to international duty after a year sidelined by injuries with a goal as the Netherlands beat Luxembourg 3-1 Sunday in a World Cup qualifier.
But the Bayern Munich winger’s long-awaited return lasted only 45 minutes, with Robben appearing in discomfort late in the first half and not returning after the break. His replacement, Memphis Depay, seized his chance by scoring twice to ensure the Netherlands went second in Group A behind leader France.
Daley Blind set up Depay’s first goal and said he was happy for his Manchester United teammate, who has struggled at Old Trafford.
“It’s great for him,” Blind said. “I know he is working really hard. He deserved it.”
Robben opened the scoring with a trademark goal to give the Netherlands a 36th-minute lead, collecting a quick pass from Davy Klaassen, cutting in from the right and shooting low into the far corner with his left foot.
Robben’s attacking threat was not enough to make up for the defensive frailties that have plagued the Netherlands in the last two years and Luxembourg leveled just before half time.
PSV wing back Joshua Brenet, starting his first international for the Netherlands, hauled down Daniel Da Mota as he cut in from the left and referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot.
“This was Joshua’s fault,” coach Danny Blind said. “He has to learn from it.”
Defender Maxime Chanot calmly stroked the ball to Maarten Stekelenburg’s right as the ’keeper went to his left for Luxembourg’s first goal against the Netherlands since 1963.
The second half started without Robben, who said he felt a small cramp just before the interval and the doctor told him he should not take any risks.
“It’s a great shame,” Robben said. “I wanted to play.”
Depay, who has fallen out of favor with Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, combined with Blind to restore the Netherlands’ lead in the 58th, powerfully heading in his cross from the left. It was the fourth international goal for Depay.
He got his fifth by curling a free kick over the Luxembourg wall six minutes from fulltime.
France leads Group A by three points after coming from a goal down to beat Sweden 2-1 on Friday. Sweden is level on points with the Netherlands, but third because of an inferior goal difference. Only the top team earns automatic qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
In Group A’s other match Sunday, Spartak Moscow’s Ivelin Popov scored after 10 minutes as Bulgaria beat Belarus 1-0 in Sofia.