Tallinn, September 10: Ryan Babel scored twice as Netherlands kept the pressure on the top two in Euro 2020 qualifying Group C with a comfortable 4-0 win at Estonia.
The Oranje reignited their campaign with a stunning 4-2 victory over Germany on Friday (September 6) and they built on that with a second successive away win, though Estonia put up significantly less of a fight at Le Coq Arena.
Although Ronald Koeman's men clearly played within themselves in the first half, they did not need to be particularly outstanding to take the lead, with poor goalkeeping allowing Babel to convert.
The Galatasaray forward doubled his tally a minute after the break, before Memphis Depay's sumptuous effort and Georginio Wijnaldum's late header ensured the Dutch coasted to all three points, setting up a potentially gripping clash with second-placed Northern Ireland next month.
Netherlands wasted no time in establishing control and the opening goal arrived in the 17th minute, as Babel nipped between his markers and guided Daley Blind's low cross into the net despite hitting his effort straight at goalkeeper Sergei Lepmets.
They remained in charge, but Netherlands' only other first-half opportunities came from distance, with Virgil van Dijk shooting just wide and Depay twice testing Lepmets.
Estonia's goalkeeper was helpless early in the second half, however, as Depay's wonderful cross found the unmarked Babel, who coolly headed into the bottom-left corner.
Depay got a deserved goal of his own 14 minutes from time, picking out the bottom-left corner from just outside the area after Ragnar Klavan failed to close him down.
And Wijnaldum wrapped things up with a close-range header that Lepmets somehow failed to keep out.
What does it mean? Heating up at the top of Group C
As a combination of Monday's results, Netherlands' clash with Northern Ireland suddenly takes on all new importance.
It was always likely to be crucial to both, but after Northern Ireland lost 2-0 to Germany, a win for the Dutch in Rotterdam next month will take them level on 12 points with Michael O'Neill's men, or a defeat will leave Koeman's side six points adrift with three qualifiers left. It is make or break time.
Babel still Mr. Dependable
While many neutrals are likely a bit baffled about Babel still getting into Netherlands' starting XI, he certainly still has his uses in an age when Koeman is not blessed with striker options. He led the line effectively in Tallinn, holding the ball up well and getting two goals. You cannot ask for much more than that.
5280 - Only Abe Lenstra & Faas Wilkes have more days between their first and most recent Netherlands goal than Ryan Babel after his goal against Estonia. Longevity. pic.twitter.com/v9Gcp1LIIV— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) September 9, 2019
Klavan caught napping
No one expected Estonia to do a great deal against Netherlands, but nevertheless, captain Klavan could have done more for two of the goals, as he lost Babel's run for the first and then stepped off Depay when he swept home from 20 yards.
Netherlands are in action again in October, when they second-placed Northern Ireland, before then going to Belarus. Estonia's quest for a first win of the campaign resumes away to Belarus, with a home game against Germany following three days later.