VIRGIL VAN DIJK struck to kill the Red Devils – and Louis van Gaal couldn’t have been happier.
Liverpool legend Van Dijk towered over 18-year-old Belgian defender Zeno Debast to head in from Cody Gakpo’s corner in the 73rd minute, ending the visitors’ hopes of creating the miracle they needed to clinch the final reach.
It was the perfect response to his critics as the 31-year-old Anfield centre-back recovered from an indifferent club form and scored his sixth international goal in a 49th cap for his country.
Harry Maguire, the stage is set for you against Germany tonight!
Belgium’s miserable evening was summed up with the final kick – Sub Dodi Lukebakio slapped the post with a scissors kick but failed to spoil Van Gaal’s celebration of reaching the Nations League finals.
The 71-year-old came out of retirement to lead his nation to Qatar after a disappointing Euro 2020 season and now has more glory in his sights.
The Dutch had done most of the work in June, beating Belgium 4-1 in Brussels to take control of Group A4.
That was always a tough challenge against Van Gaal’s resurgent side, who had gone 14 games unbeaten since the ex-Manchester United manager returned for a third term a year ago.
That sensational away win meant Roberto Martinez’s side needed to win by at least three goals at the Johan Cruyff ArenA to stage a miraculous turnaround and overtake their very noisy neighbours.
In those three appearances, Van Gaal has lost just four of their 57 competitive games.
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Gareth Southgate will look to avoid his fourth defeat since June at Wembley tonight.
At the other end of the scale, Thierry Henry took charge of Belgium for the first time in place of coach Martinez, who was relegated to the stands after intercepting a red card in his side’s 2-1 win against Wales on Thursday.
How Henry must have wished his players could finish like he did in his prime.
Instead, Eden Hazard shot wide from 12 yards, Axel Witsel missed his shot after a glorious chip from Kevin De Bruyne and Leicester’s Timothy Castagne shot wide when they all should have scored.
The Dutch shifted up several gears after a weak first half and Thibaut Courtois made a fingertip save from Denzil Dumfries before Belgium squandered their best chance.
De Bruyne selected Amadou Onana from six yards out but the Everton midfielder’s shot was brilliantly parried by goalkeeper Remko Pasveer.
And Van Dijk put Belgium out of their misery as the Dutch beat Group A4 by six points.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/football/premier-league/6300753/holland-1-0-belgium-van-dijk-gaal-nations-league/ Holland 1 Belgium 0: Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk wins to send Louis van Gaal’s men into Nations League final