Marco van Ginkel scored twice without reply as the Netherlands took a firm grip on their UEFA European Under-21 Championship play-off against Slovakia.
Following a goalless first period in which the home side started positively, Van Ginkel put the Jong Oranje ahead in the 55th minute. His second, a predatory strike in the closing stages to divert a header from Luuk de Jong into the net, means the Dutch are perfectly situated to secure a place in the finals for the first time since winning the second of their two titles in 2007.
The early stages, if not most of the first 45 minutes in Senec on Thursday, belonged to Ivan Galád's side. Lukáš Pauschek was denied by the outrushing Jeroen Zoet in the first minute and, a little over a quarter of an hour later, Róbert Mak slipped at the crucial moment with just the goalkeeper to beat.
Cor Pot's team slowly began to take control, yet they were restricted to long-range efforts which failed to trouble Michal Šulla in the Slovakia goal. All the while, Slovakia remained a threat on the counterattack through Mak and Martin Mikovič.
However, Van Ginkel, the 19-year-old Vitesse midfielder, broke the deadlock ten minutes into the second half, finishing off a one-on-one chance with Šulla following a precision pass from Adam Maher. Slovakia had opportunities to equalise, notably via Mikovič and Kristián Kolčák's outrageous attempt from the halfway line, yet conceded what could be the crucial goal eight minutes from time.
A cross from the left by substitute Jerson Cabral was headed on by De Jong and Van Ginkel, with the slightest of touches, turned the ball past Šulla. The return leg takes place on Monday in Rotterdam.
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.